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Like cigarettes, city’s white poles are a calming influence

Barricade? Camp spot? Slalom course? Here are some of the white posts in the vicinity of West Park and West Second avenues, near Fassbinder Park. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: What’s with all those white poles sticking out in the street at the end of Fassbinder Park? – Pole-Stricken

This was the more succinct of two questions Action Line received regarding these poles. The other described them as “white, cigarette-shaped, flexible posts that surround – well – they surround what used to be used as the street.”

This questioner wondered if the posts marked camping sites, were artwork, or existed for skateboarders to use as a slalom course, kind of an auxiliary feature to the nearby skate park.

Among several other theories this questioner offered, she actually hit on the correct answer by asking: “Did we need more obstacles to ‘calm’ the traffic?” She considered this possibility with some, um, virulence, we’ll say.

To back up for a second: We are taxpayers, we elect representatives, they appoint people to head departments, and department heads hire people who are smart and know about things like, in this case, moving traffic. So we have to trust the process, or elect different representatives, or whine like crazy about things that don’t work – until they’re changed.

It's a complicated process, but it seems to work pretty well in the long run. And methods that seem dubious to the common person do work (sometimes).

For instance, Action Line was a doubting Thomas a decade or so ago when Florida Road was rebuilt, and a median was added with a few trees. This median would supposedly slow down vehicles. And lo and behold, in practice, it actually seems to do the trick.

In the case of the West Park, three streets come together there (West Park, West Second, and 16th Street) and it can get a little weird. The posts do seem a little goofy and out of their element at first glance. Action Line learned they are neither “artwork” nor giant cigarettes, but “delineators.” Here’s the method behind the madness.

“The delineators (white flex posts) are associated with the West Park Avenue Traffic Calming pilot project the city implemented (in September),” explained Devin King, multimodal administrator for the city of Durango. “This project is in response to neighborhood concerns regarding an increase in speeding and traffic volumes along West Park Avenue.”

At first the city rolled out a radar speed trailer – which showed 21% of vehicles exceeding the speed limit – and then implemented an expanded police presence. Like the police enforcement, delineators are a quick, perhaps short-term response, King said.

“The paint and delineators narrow the roadway by creating curb extensions and pinch points,” King said. “These treatments are designed to encourage drivers to slow down while maintaining safety.”

There is a long-term response in the works through a capital improvement project. West Park is on the Streets Division’s list for improvements in 2025. Also, the city’s Multimodal Advisory Board prioritized it in a five-year strategic plan for a traffic calming design in 2024.

The city will compare speeds without and with delineators to see if they helped.

King added that “the design was coordinated between multiple city departments to ensure operations like snowplowing and emergency services would still be able to function appropriately.”

Dear Action Line: Why does the city of Durango do fall cleanup before leaves fall from the trees? Wouldn’t it make more sense to do it later? Like, now? – Matt Payne (submitted Nov. 12)

Dear Matt: It would make more sense for leaves to fall earlier. That would solve all our problems. So I just did me some talking to the trees, and I said hey, can you change your schedule please? Dropping leaves too soon. Those leaves keep falling on my head. They keep falling.

Apologies to those who don’t understand that kind of forced and awkward use of the most famous song from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which for those unaware, was partly filmed in the Durango area.

For an actual answer, Action Line jumped on a bicycle and steered with his feet over to the city of Durango offices to chat with Allison Baker, Durango’s public works director. Or was that in the movie?

“Yes, it is a very fine balance to find the right moment for fall cleanup,” Baker said. “Leaf fall can vary by a week or two each year based on precipitation, wind and other variables, and, also, snowfall start prediction is more of an art than a science.”

The city tries to schedule fall cleanup as late as possible, but also wants to get it done before snow starts dumping. The same crews that do fall cleanup are needed for snow cleanup, and fall pickup takes several weeks.

“(Snow removal) is a public safety matter so we are less flexible in that scheduling,” Baker said.

She pointed out that for those who need additional removal, the city has bulk pickups available, at an extra cost. Also, the transfer station west of downtown and Bondad landfill south of town continue to accept leaves throughout the year.

Ah, Action Line is done for the week. And now is free. Nothing’s worrying … me-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eeeeeee.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Apologies also to Burt Bacharach and B.J. Thomas.