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Our View: It’s the right time for the proposed north Main crossing

It’s the right time for the proposed crossing

Among the laudable goals of the city of Durango is the intention to make more of it as livable, walkable and bikeable as the city’s downtown area.

On the agenda is a plan to provide safe passage for pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross north Main Avenue (U.S. Highway 550) in the span between 29th and 31st streets, where currently there are no stop lights or stop signs to slow traffic and make crossing safe. Traffic moves fast and is particularly heavy at the nearby 32nd Street intersection, where many people cross Main to access the Animas River Trail.

Additionally, a charter school and the Animas Museum are located near the 31st Street intersection. Commercial ventures line that stretch of the road and surely more are to come.

Another aim of the crossing is to make it safer and easier to reach transit stops in the area.

The city is conducting an online survey before deciding exactly where the crossing will be installed. Deadline to participate is Feb. 26. Participants simply rank five potential crossing sites the Colorado Department of Transportation identified. The survey should take no more than five minutes to complete. Results will be forwarded to CDOT, which will make the final determination on the site and its design.

The crossing will include curb cuts and ramps in order to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, a rectangular flashing beacon and a concrete “pedestrian refuge” in the middle of the highway.

The flashing beacon could work like the one at the 12th Street intersection with Camino del Rio. The stop light there is activated only when someone pushes a button to cross, meaning traffic moves continuously except when the light turns red and the crosswalk is in use.

The possibility of an overhead crossing on 32nd Street near north Main was nixed after much public protest against the idea and once it became clear how expensive and difficult such a crossing would be to create and install.

Other sites along Highway 550 cry out for attention; the 12th Street crossing should be improved, for one, and officials are considering an underground tunnel at that site.

For now, however, the north Main site is definitely the proper priority and should be pursued with haste.

It’s important that the city act before a terrible accident occurs in the area. They need look only as far as Mancos for a cautionary tale, where in 2000, a 12-year-old child became the fifth person killed in a similar unsafe crossing situation before a signal was finally installed.

Whatever the design, we agree with the need for a proper crossing and like the general location. It is time to be able to safely cross Main Avenue north of 26th Street.

On another note, City Council on Tuesday passed its proposal for an increase in the lodgers tax, from the current 2% to 5.25%. That issue will appear on the ballot for voters’ consideration, along with the City Council election, on April 6.

Councilors agreed that revenues from the tax will be divided as follows: 55% for the “sustainable” marketing of Durango; 20% for transit; 14% for the arts and culture, including cultural events; and 11% for an “impact fund.” The latter represents a discretionary fund the council can allocate to whatever needs arise – including redirecting some of it to the other three categories.

Councilor Barbara Noseworthy was the sole dissenter in terms of the allocations. Noseworthy said she was concerned that transit will be severely underfunded by 2023 and had hoped more of the lodgers tax would be directed toward it.

We support the proposed increase in lodgers tax as necessary and appropriate to the continued growth and improvement of our city.

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