College Drive is going on a diet – a road diet, that is; one intended to make the street safer for pedestrians and drivers.
City officials plan to spend more than $2 million in the next three years to reconfigure College Drive between East Third and East Eighth avenues and East Eighth Avenue from Second Street to College Drive, reducing the number of lanes from four to three, one of which will be used as a left-turn lane.
The objective is to improve business visibility, increase left-turn capability, maintain traffic flow, reduce the number of crashes and improve bicycle conditions and safety.
“It is a safety project, and the overall goal of the project is to improve the safety of the corridor,” said Assistant City Manager Amber Blake.
City staff identified the project as Durango’s most needed street redesign after an eight-year process in which city staff sought public comment about how to make Durango more accessible for multi-modal transportation, Blake said. The area was identified as a high-traffic area with enough crashes to warrant safety improvements.
From 2011 through 2015, a city study of Colorado Department of Transportation data found there were 207 crashes on College Drive between Main and East Eighth avenues, most of which were rear-ends or sideswipes, Blake said. These kinds of crashes are exemplary of a problem with turning traffic – vehicles that stop in the middle of flowing traffic to turn left, she said.
The problem is that vehicles stop in the middle of the road and back up traffic. When the backed-up traffic tries to go around the vehicle that is turning, those vehicles are at a higher risk of turning into another vehicle. And sometimes vehicles stop too fast, causing rear-end crashes.
The best way to overcome those problems, the city found, is with a lane reconfiguration. Replacing the four lanes with three will move left-turning vehicles out of the flow of traffic, thereby reducing the risk of crashes, Blake said.
The $2 million project is funded in part by the Highway Safety Improvement Program, a grant the city was awarded over other street safety projects in the state – something Blake said qualifies the need for the project.
“It’s very clear that this is significant because it won the state funding in competition with all other state funding requests,” Blake said.
Aubrey Farnham, a resident on East Eighth Avenue who has lived in Durango for more than 12 years, said she is supportive of the project because the street is so unsafe. She hopes the work will improve crosswalks, signs, sidewalks and bike lanes while also slowing down drivers who often speed.
“I definitely am way behind the project, and I think it’ll be a great improvement,” Farnham said.
But Ted Hermesman III said it is a waste of money “because they’re going to do something whether the people want it or not.” At a public meeting held to discuss the project last week, Hermesman said he didn’t hear a lot of support from the 44 people who attended the event.
While the concept behind the project has already been determined, the details have not, Blake said. That means things like bus stops, pedestrian amenities and crosswalks are up for decision.
The project is not scheduled to break ground until 2021 and is expected to take a year to complete, Blake said.