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Our view: Next Step worth a test

Downtown delineators are on their way. (Durango Herald)
Planters, plastic and paint on their way

Durango’s “Downtown’s Next Step,” a more pedestrian friendly modification to Main Avenue, will soon be underway. Expect wider sidewalks, bulb-outs to reduce the space that pedestrians and vehicles overlap at intersections, and longer parallel parking spaces.

The additions – some say they will be subtractions – won’t be in place in concrete, however, not just yet.

This step, which will be put in place this summer, will involve planters, delineators and paint, all to let store owners, walkers and drivers experience what could come, including reduced parking. A test, a very good idea.

And, only Main Avenue’s 600 and 700 blocks will receive the appliqué.

At this point, there’s opposition to Durango’s Next Step. Two City Council members – Gilda Yazzie and Olivier Bosmans – voted last week against moving forward, citing downtown’s current appeal, some store owners’ opposition and the unknown cost of the changes. Melissa Youssef, Dave Woodruff and Mayor Jessika Buell voted to support this stage of Downtown’s Next Step.

This try-it-out effort will cost about $210,000, about 80% from the federal government.

That change brings uncertainly is a much overused statement.

We like Main Avenue’s current driving configuration, one northbound lane and one southbound lane with a middle left turn lane that is also used for truck deliveries, law enforcement and brief drop-offs. That alignment also made the parking lane wider, putting some distance between an open car door and moving traffic.

All good. But that configuration with those benefits didn’t exist three years ago.

We also are OK with the way a few adjoining store owners, on the west side of the 700 block have routed pedestrians to the curb with a portable platform. Another recent change.

Yes to longer parallel parking spaces to accommodate the increasing number of vehicles with fold-up bike racks at the back. But, a couple of components of Downtown’s Next Step we’re not certain are needed. The bulb-outs at intersections will put pedestrians, about to cross Main, close to moving cars and bicycles. And, now, drivers making a right turn can create a partial lane, to the right, while traffic continues on their left. That won’t be possible.

We’re also not certain that Durango’s sidewalks need to be wider. This weekend, and for a few weeks during the summer, a lot of people are downtown, mixing with parking meters, advertising boards and publication boxes, but as to being crowded, we don’t think that’s the case. A continued population increase, more people on foot or pushing a bike, will come, but not for some time.

We look forward to test routing ourselves around planters and delineators guided by paint, both on foot and behind the wheel. Then we can experience what Downtown’s Next Step, all or part, or not at all, might bring.