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Underpass, footbridge coming to 32nd Street in Durango

Construction expected to start this summer
The city of Durango is building an underpass and footbridge at 32nd Street to assist with vehicle and Animas River Trail traffic. (Terrance Siemon/Special to the Herald)

Construction could begin this summer on the long-awaited, and at times controversial, Animas River Trail crossing at 32nd Street.

The city has advertised the project to attract interested contractors. The first pre-bid meeting, when the city and contractors meet, is scheduled for Friday. Final bids are due June 29, said Cathy Metz, Durango Parks and Recreation director.

Metz said the ideal timeline would be to begin construction in July and build the underpass in the fall, when the river is lower. She expected the infrastructure to be completed by the end of the year with some landscaping work extending into 2022.

The project timeline and cost will be finalized after a contractor is selected.

The city has budgeted $3.4 million for the project. That estimate includes design and construction costs and the city’s $700,000 property purchase to make room for a loop portion of the crossing.

The city of Durango decided to construct an underpass and street-level pedestrian bridge to help with the crossing after years of planning. A discarded design, that included three bridges to cross the river, prompted consternation among residents and the city’s design change.

“It’s always been a priority of the city to complete this section of the trail,” Metz said. “It was just more complicated because of this crossing.”

A screenshot of the city of Durango’s design for the 32nd Street pedestrian crossing. (City of Durango)

With the new crossing, pedestrians and cyclists will travel north under 32nd Street on the east side of the river then loop back up to street level and cross the Animas River using a street-level pedestrian bridge that runs parallel to the existing vehicular bridge. The pedestrian bridge will be on the north side of the vehicular bridge.

As it is now heading north, the trail arrives at 32nd Street on the east bank of the Animas River. But users have to cross the busy street, the river and the railroad tracks to reach the trail’s $5.8 million extension north to Oxbow Park and Preserve on the opposite bank.

Trail users have the option of crossing 32nd Street with the help of a blinking pedestrian signal. They cross the Animas River using two sidewalks on either side of the Emerson-Parks Bridge (32nd Street).

The sidewalks are narrower than recommended for the multi-use pathway, according to a city staff presentation at a Durango City Council study session in March. And high pedestrian traffic at 32nd Street, one of the busiest streets in Durango, is a safety concern.

City councilors raised questions about the new plan’s accessibility for users with impaired mobility. Metz said staff members met with community members and confirmed the design will be accessible.

The loop will include a widened section so users can pull off and rest, if needed. The grade of the trail will be less than 5% as it crosses the railroad tracks and enters Animas City Park on the west side of the river, she said.

The Animas River Trail is the most-used recreational asset in the city of Durango. The 8.4-mile, paved walkway attracts cyclists, joggers and families – 93% of residents use it at least once a year, according to a city survey.

“We know how important it is to our community to finally finish this last leg of the Animas River Trail,” Metz said. “Then we’ll be shifting our focus to the Smart 160 Trail going east toward Three Springs. It’s really nice to see our trail system coming together.”


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