A “pedestrian scramble” intersection at College Drive and Main Avenue in Durango will be eliminated by mid-May.
Pedestrians gained the right to cross diagonally at the intersection in 2010, and it was meant to keep them safer.
But a study in 2016 found the design is causing cars to stack up at red lights, creating a line of traffic west to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks and east to East Second Avenue. The stacking could cause conflicts between cars and between drivers and trains, reducing the functionality of the intersections, City Engineer Gregg Boysen said in an email to The Durango Herald.
“The city has been considering removing the crossing since the report was submitted,” he said.
The traffic signal at College and Main gives pedestrians more time to cross the intersection diagonally than a traditional straight crossing, Boysen said. The design is known as a “pedestrian scramble” or “Barnes Dance,” named after Henry Barnes, an American traffic engineer who invented numerous traffic devices.
Boysen expects traffic flow at the intersection will improve after reverting to a traditional design, which will include “piano-key” crossing stripes.
The design of the intersection will be changed as part of a larger effort to improve College Drive from East Fourth Avenue to Main Avenue, which is expected to cost $510,400.
Crews started work this week on the three-block section. The city will reduce the number of lanes on College Drive between East Third Avenue to Main Avenue from four to three and will add a traffic signal at East Second Avenue.
“The traffic flow should remain the same, and the movement should be smoother,” Boysen said of the project as a whole.
He could not say the exact date of when the diagonal crossing will become a traditional crossing.
Modifying the traffic signals at Main and College is estimated to cost $4,780. Some signs that will be removed at the intersection, such as the “no turn on red” sign, can be repurposed at other intersections, Boysen said.
From his crêperie on the southeast corner of Main and College, chef Michel Poumay often observes drivers turning right on red lights instead of waiting for pedestrians to cross. He said he has almost been hit by cars turning right from Main Avenue onto College Drive.
“It’s very scary. ... You almost have to jump back,” Poumay said.
Drivers don’t seem to see the large signs prohibiting right-hand turns on red lights, he said.
Dean Fagner, owner of Four Leaves Winery, said he doesn’t think many tourists use the diagonal crosswalk.
“I don’t think people understand it that well,” he said.
Fagner said he understands how the longer pause in traffic flow for pedestrians to cross could frustrate drivers.
But “I think there’s bigger things the city can focus on,” he said, such as adding lighting at dark intersections and audible crossing signals for people who are vision-impaired.
More information about the work to improve College Drive can be found at DurangoGov.org/CollegeDrive.