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Improving our bump-outs for downtown

The Bump Outs for Businesses program proved to be extremely successful this past summer downtown.

Surveys of current users indicate that the new space is supporting 20% of total sales at those businesses. The space has become so valuable that some of the current users are requesting that the bump-outs return next summer.

Last week, an accident occurred at one of the bump-outs. A suspected drunken driver went through the crash barrier at Tequila’s and into the area where patrons at one table were enjoying a late night meal. The vehicle was stopped by the next space in front of Maria’s Bookshop, which was constructed using railroad ties to create a large planter area.

My thoughts are with the four people who were dining when this incident occurred, and with the staff at Tequila’s and the neighboring restaurants and businesses that immediately helped the injured. I am also upset at the driver, who made a horrible decision to get behind the wheel that evening. Thank goodness no one was seriously injured. Even so, this incident has put a pause on future plans for the bump-outs. So what’s next?

To keep the public informed, here are the safety measures taken in the design of this new space for businesses: First and foremost, every bump-out has two water-filled, orange crash barriers on the oncoming traffic side of each space. These are designed to prevent vehicles from penetrating working zones, or in this case the bump-outs. They weigh about 750 pounds when filled with water.

Main Avenue was also reconfigured to calm traffic. Instead of four lanes, two north and two south, we now have three lanes. The center lane is a dedicated left turn lane with protected turns, which has helped tremendously with traffic stacking concerns as well as with pedestrian safety.

The speed limit downtown has been reduced to 10 mph during the period the bump-outs are in place. There are signs at key entrances downtown showing the reduced speed limit.

Combined, these features worked throughout the summer to keep customers in the new bump -recent incident. All safety measures are being re-evaluated, and previously discussed ideas are being considered. I believe there are three key measures needed to ensure safety for all.

First, more signage reminding drivers that the speed limit is 10 mph is needed. Enforcement of the reduced speed will also help. Second, a more robust barrier is needed in key locations to prevent a repeat of last week’s incident. Concrete barriers or bollards could be installed to further increase safety. Third, raised and reinforced structures could be required to use the new space. Two structures are in place that currently that meet these needs, and I believe all users should be required to install something similar.

Implementing these measures might require financial assistance, which the BID is prepared to discuss with the city and with businesses. Let’s focus on making the bump-outs even better so that businesses can use them again next summer.

Tim Walsworth is executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District. Contact him at timw@downtowndurango.org.