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Taking turns, and being patient for paving

Four Corners Materials employees put down new asphalt on Tuesday on Florida Road. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Dear Action Line: Maybe you have been asked this question already, but with all of the new people moving to Durango, are there any special rules of the road you might be able to share, especially when turning left through the median on East Third Avenue? – Jessica Mitchell

Dear Jessica: When Durango was platted in 1880, East Third Avenue (“The Boulevard”) was created to look beautiful and elegant. It was a fantastic place to cruise up and down with your horse and buggy. It is sad to admit that our town founders had no foresight to plan for the invention of the automobile, and also figure in the harried commuters who would drive them.

Turning left through the beautiful raised, grass-covered, tree-lined median is no picnic. And setting up a picnic is no picnic, although that was probably the popular thing to do there in the late 1800s.

Action Line tries to avoid left-hand turns whenever possible, particularly along East Third Avenue. If you turn left from East Third Avenue, and it’s not clear to complete the turn, you have a decision: Block the north-south lane you’re in, or creep out into the intersection and face the possibility that the rear of your vehicle will stick out and be clipped by someone behind you.

If you turn left from a side street, say Ninth Street, onto East Third, you could wait for it to clear or you could creep out and use the median as a midway point.

Action Line is never sure what’s best.

Ron Wysocki, officer with the Durango Police Department, said you shouldn’t start to make that left turn unless you can clear the turn completely. He cited the “Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles’ Driver Handbook.” So, that’s what a good citizen does: Wait until you can make the full turn. Now you have to try your best to be a good, patient citizen.

Wysocki added that you should yield to the driver on your right if you both pull up to a four-way intersection at approximately the same time.

Action Line is still pretty sore at the guy who honked when Action Line was turning left at a four-way and got there about a minute (OK, maybe 10 seconds) before the honker, who was going straight. “That’s an aggressive driver,” Wysocki said of the honker, thus completely vindicating Action Line, the “honkee” in this case.

Other things to keep in mind in our fair city? Remember the speed limit in the reconfigured downtown is now 15 mph, Wysocki emphasized. (He was seen the next day patrolling there on his motorcycle.) And that 25 mph speed limit on 32nd Street, which will be put to the test when it’s used constantly during Florida Road construction? Observe it, Wysocki said.

And that brings us to the next question.

Dear Action Line: What “genius” decided the height of summer tourism (i.e. Fourth of July) was the time to repave a major section of Florida Road with no alternate routes available? Florida Road is the main route between Durango and both Lemon and Vallecito reservoirs, major summer fun here in Southwest Colorado. – Miss Ty Ming

Dear Miss: The city does try to do projects during “shoulder season” when it can, but there are constraints in scheduling contractors and procuring asphalt. Also, you might have to wait decades for the next “shoulder season” to appear. Does that even exist here anymore?

Local asphalt plants typically start producing in mid- to late-April, and typically close Thanksgiving week, said Levi Lloyd, the city of Durango’s director of operations. So there’s that window.

Also, the city has to do the work when contractors are available. So there is that issue.

Yes, it’s an inconvenience for a few weeks. (You should have been here during months-long Florida Road construction in 2010 – yeesh!) But there are ways around, Lloyd said.

Thirty-second Street, North College Drive and Riverview Drive “are all viable alternatives,” Lloyd said.

“The contractor is not ever going to have the whole 1.6-mile section closed at one time, and they are working to keep two lanes of traffic open whenever possible. … I know it is farther to go through Elmore’s Corner, but there is no wait,” Lloyd suggested.

The work on Florida, from the Riverview roundabout to Ptarmigan Ridge Road, is expected to be complete by the end of July.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. If everyone wants to return to the horse-and-buggy days, Action Line is all for it.