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Tight downtown squeeze? Try holding your breath

Vehicles that are parked out into traffic lanes can cause problems with two-way traffic having to take turns to get past them on 11th Street west of Main Avenue. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Dear Action Line: What is the deal with the impasse that occurs when a pickup truck or Sprinter van (with bike racks, it’s even worse) parks on either side of 11th Street, between Main and Narrow Gauge avenues? It’s a popular route to Town Plaza, and almost always busy. It's already tight with standard-sized cars parked on either side, but it becomes a crazy stop-and-go single-lane traffic path when longer vehicles park there. You’d think by now the city would have put “compact car only” signs in these spaces to avoid these traffic jams, and to prevent the real possibility of ripping someone’s beloved bike rack clean off the rear of their vehicle! – Don Corbeil

Dear Don: Making your vehicle thinner by sucking in your gut and holding your breath doesn’t work? It should. Try it next time you drive through this gantlet.

But yes, it’s a tight squeeze. In fact, every east-west street in downtown Durango from Fifth to 12th is pretty much the same stifling situation.

Action Line first of all wondered if the city gives tickets to vehicles violating the parking code. Tracy Robinette, customer service assistant with the city’s Transportation Department, said the regulation in question is “Section 24-60 (B) Not Wholly in Space.”

“If the vehicle is not in the designated white lines they will issue a 24-60B,” Robinette said. “Each of our city blocks have two signs stating the regulation and how to park in angled parking.”

The city added in a response to Corbeil (received after he turned to Action Line) that: “There may be some situations where we would need to contact the police for assistance to track down the owner of the vehicle when the vehicle is obstructing traffic and needs to be moved immediately. You are welcome to call us when you see these issues, but in most cases we have already seen the problem and have ticketed the vehicle.”

Action Line offers two helpful suggestions: One, everyone entering downtown must swap their large truck or van with a smaller, more appropriate vehicle. If that doesn’t seem feasible, then the second suggestion would be to just use a zapper to shrink the big vehicles to proper size.

Allison Baker, the city’s director of public works, said “we have reviewed several alternatives for creating more drivable lane width.”

“Twelfth Street is the one that catches my attention, every time,” Baker said. “It’s enough of a challenge in standard conditions, so you can imagine how challenging it is for snowplows! But we have to balance that with the need for adequate parking for the many larger vehicles and pickups in Durango. We’ll keep you posted as we make some decisions – coordinating engineering, streets and parking divisions.”

Decades ago, it sure seemed that with gas crunches and skyrocketing prices and environmental problems rearing up, vehicles were destined to shrink into the future. That didn’t happen, did it?

Dear Action Line: What’s going on with the Durango post office?! I live off state Highway 172 in a subdivision a little more than a mile south of Elmore’s Corner and discovered no mail got delivered yesterday, apparently due to construction. I tried to call the post office. No answer. Tried several times, even letting it ring for several minutes. You may know this is normal operational procedure. And why don’t carriers want to be delayed in traffic? UPS and FedEx made it through. … BTW does this mean we won’t get mail for the next several months as the construction continues? – Miffed on the Mesa

Dear Miffed: Action Line feels your pain, at least as far as getting a response from the U.S. Postal Service.

Readers may want to know that this column-length-long “question” was shortened and otherwise edited. But the point is well taken. It is impossible to get someone at the U.S. Postal Service to talk on the phone.

As to road work on Highway 172 between Elmore’s Corner and Ignacio, that began July 24 and is scheduled to run through August. The Colorado Department of Transportation is resurfacing the road, and delays of up to 30 minutes are expected. In other words, that is why you missed your flight last week. But now you know.

Action Line will take this opportunity to challenge the Postal Service to respond. Action Line refuses to call the local office, the postmaster or whoever, because from experience Action Line knows it is a time-sucking, losing battle. And Action Line refuses to badger the post office clerks, who are working really hard and shouldn’t be the ones getting such questions.

The gist of the reader’s question was why the Postal Service carrier didn’t deliver an “important package” because of the construction. “Per customer directions” – no such directions were given, Miffed said – the package ended up back at the post office. That is where “Miffed on the Mesa” retrieved it, as he waited in line with “four or five others” who lived along Highway 172.

A follow-up email exchange with Miffed revealed that service has improved:

“As the construction winds down outside the subdivision we have gotten mail normally except for misdirected letters in the wrong boxes. But we’re used to that and just drop them off to the right people at their house.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. We didn’t get into the issue of diagonal parking next to the behemoth vehicle and trying to blindly back out, but that’s for another day.

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