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Jumps, thrills, spills coming to north Main?

Dear Action Line: When are they going to open up the jumps on north Main? How clever to design this so a driver can hit the takeoff whether driving north or south. Go for max speed to clear the gap! – Lars Gelande

The median of the under-construction crossing along Main Avenue between 29th and 30th streets. (Courtesy of Lars Gelande)

Dear Lars: Good to hear from you. Haven’t heard a peep since the question about the Bridge to Nowhere takeoff ramp. Action Line was bombarded with three inquiries on this north Main feature – one actually in support of the “clever” design. Here’s an excerpt from a skeptic:

“Dear Action Line: The other evening I was staying up late watching some automobile stunts on TV. They were the kind where cars are able to pop up on their two outside wheels and drive down the road on their passenger-side tires. … I noticed that CDOT has added one of those kind of ramps. … Conveniently it has a notch in the middle so a cameraman could actually sit in the middle and safely film the car going over the top. I don’t know if this was instigated by parks and rec as an advanced stage of skateboarder skills but it does look like a heck of a fun time. – Wheely Impressed.”

Change is hard. Action Line is still unconvinced that the complicated left-hand turn from U.S. Highway 550/160 onto U.S. Highway 160 near the DoubleTree Hotel is really beneficial. And although Action Line is completely down with roundabouts versus traffic lights, there’s still the stray driver who tries to enter roundabouts by turning left, as witnessed the other day. (Nobody was hurt.)

So, back to the “jumps” on north Main between 29th and 30th streets. That, my Action Line friends, is a midblock pedestrian crossing, complete with a still-to-come Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon. The beacon will serve as a warning for vehicles to slow down and stop. Works every time. Or just about every time. The raised median – the “jump” – is a refuge for pedestrians. It’ll be similar to the Camino del Rio crossing at Seventh Street.

Lots of orange tells people there’s something really big happening along north Main. Action Line misses Bird’s, but that’s another story. (Action Line)

This project was a collaboration between the city of Durango and the Colorado Department of Transportation, the latter of which is overseeing the work. The center median and Americans with Disabilities Act ramps are complete, and the project could be finished in July, which is when the poles for the flashing beacon are scheduled to arrive, said Lisa Schwantes, CDOT spokeswoman. When the fixtures are in place, the light will be activated. Studies show that midblock crossings are safer because there are fewer conflict points, Schwantes said. At an intersection, pedestrians have vehicles coming at them from multiple directions.

See? Only two conflict points in a midblock crossing. At an intersection crossing, vehicles come at pedestrians from four directions – three at one time. (Colorado Department of Transportation)

The city’s Multimodal Advisory Board played a role in this project and gave its approval to the chosen location in April 2021.

“Pedestrian crossings are few and far between on some parts of Main Avenue,” said Sarah Kelly, chairwoman of the multimodal board. She said she supports safe crossings such as this versus having pedestrians sprint across Main because they don’t want to walk several blocks to a protected crossing.

This crossing is adjacent to a trolley stop, and is midway along a quarter-mile stretch without a traffic light from 27th to 32nd streets. It is several years in the making.

Devin King, the city’s multimodal administrator, said this is a CDOT-led and city-supported project. From its 2015 half-cent sales tax fund, the city kicked in $95,000 of the about $350,000 project cost.

“A need for a safe crossing of north Main Avenue was identified in the Multimodal Transportation Plan and the North Main Avenue Corridor Mobility Study. The city conducted the outreach for the crossing in early 2021,” King said. The city held meetings with business owners and got public input through a survey.

Schwantes said vehicles get moving fast along that 27th-to-32nd stretch, and the new crossing and light can work as a traffic-calming device. The added benefit of seeing skateboarders leaping the gap and vehicles sideways on two wheels, Action Line believes, is just an unforeseen bonus.

Dear Action Line: I have called the city Parks and Recreation Department, and emailed them about why the Smith Fields at Fort Lewis College are so brown, as well as some other parks in town. Others ask me what’s up. So without any responses, we need to ask you, like “Carnac” from Johnny Carson days, to find out. – Thirsty Parks Sympathizers

Dear Thirsty: Carnac, an Eastern mystic, had abilities that, honestly, Action Line just does not possess. Carnac, as the over-45 crowd may recall, could divine answers simply by holding an envelope to his head. Action Line cannot. But stay tuned: Action Line has a trick for later in the show.

Parks and Rec Director Ture Nycum had an answer, which is basically general dryness and sprinkler issues.

“Every season start-up is different, but this season we do have drier, windier conditions,” Nycum said. “Couple that with heavy use from athletic competitions, construction projects and irrigation system issues, and we have some brown spots in our parks. Staffing is short-handed, but they are working hard to get caught up with a challenging start to the season.”

Anyone trying to keep a lawn green has similar issues, and Action Line is betting there will be a lot of xeriscaping done this summer. It’s pretty scary dusty out there.

Dear Action Line: What’s the deal with the resurfacing project on the Animas River Trail just north of Rank Park? I read an article in March that seemed to indicate the project would start around the beginning of April. There were some fascinating mice hip-hopping around and someone figured out they are worth accommodating. Is there any update from your connections in the city or the wetlands? – Matthew McKeon

Dear Matthew: Action Line can make things happen without even acting. After simply reading the question Monday and thinking about it momentarily, a link to a city news release popped up in the email box:

“Animas River Trail construction begins behind DHS”

“The Animas River Trail from Rank Park to Demon Bridge behind Durango High School will be rebuilt starting today, Monday, June 6. Work is expected to last until mid-August. The project will replace the existing 8-foot asphalt path with a 10-foot-wide concrete shared-use path. A bypass trail will be available during construction.”

The project, first scheduled for fall 2021, was delayed to study the impact on the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

There. (Sound of Action Line slapping hands together in triumph.) How’s that for a neat trick?!

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Not to spoil the above item, but as of midweek, no visible work on the trail project had begun.

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