Can summer really be this far along already? I hope you are enjoying each and every day!
In my column last month, I wrote about the Animas River Trail and how it connects our community.
This month, with the recent voter-approved half-cent sales tax increase for street, sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements (Ballot Measure 1A) taking effect July 1, my mind has been on streets.
All over the world and through the ages, streets historically served as the most basic public spaces in communities.
Streets were populated by local markets and door-to-door vendors. They were places where residents could catch up on local news and exchange ideas. Elderly people could safely sit at their doorways and chat with neighbors. Children played there.
All of this, of course, has drastically changed in modern cities large and small, where streets now belong almost entirely to cars.
We are fortunate, indeed, to live in walkable Durango.
Many of our inviting, tree-lined streets are bordered by wide, well-maintained sidewalks.
They’re more than transportation routes; they are places we enjoy, and they contribute significantly to our town’s charm and personality.
Downtown Durango is a cultural destination where we connect with old friends and sometimes make new ones.
Walk from Riverview to the free concerts at Rotary Park, stroll down historic Third Avenue or turn out for one of the many fun festivals and events that take place on cordoned-off public streets and parking lots.
I find it interesting that there’s a growing urban movement across America to reinvent streets, with the goal of turning them back into healthy and productive public spaces that people enjoy.
There is, of course, room for improvement, but I believe Durango is ahead of this curve.
With the purposeful planting of shade trees along many city streets and the addition of bike lanes and wide sidewalks, along with access from city streets to the expanding Animas River Trail, Durango streets are becoming ever more integral and socially relevant.
Although we rarely cheer when sales taxes increase, treating our streets as the valued asset they are comes at a price.
Residents of Durango were almost equally divided, with an extremely small margin separating those voting for and against Ballot Measure 1A.
While in favor of much-needed improvements, I voted against the tax, preferring to give voters choice by offering several funding options.
However, with funding now in place, City Council and staff have been able to move quickly forward in establishing important street maintenance and repair priorities for the coming year.
We will all benefit from this additional funding.
The city of Durango maintains 165 lane miles of streets.
Picture a single lane of asphalt stretching from Durango to Moab that is regularly stressed by both heavy traffic and harsh weather.
Decisions on which street gets what treatment and when is determined by an evaluation system based on a Pavement Condition Index that takes into account 20 factors.
The key to cost-effective management is to apply the most appropriate preventive treatments when streets are still in fair to good condition. Patching, sealing, overlays and mills substantially extend pavement life for a fraction of the cost of new paving. But the reality is that aging streets will eventually require more extensive rehab and reconstruction. These costly processes are always a last resort.
In addition to preventive treatments throughout Durango in 2020, including a thin overlay for Florida Road from Riverview to Oak Drive, full reconstruction has now been slated for Thomas Drive, Turner Drive, Alamo Drive, Suttle Street, Sanborn Place and the East Park Avenue island, as a result of the half-cent sales tax increase. A full five-year capital improvement plan for streets is available on our city website.
I hope I speak for all of us when I say that Durango residents appreciate all our Street Division does to keep our streets clean, safe, functional and efficient for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
As you drive, bike or walk the streets and sidewalks this coming year, you may be delayed or inconvenienced.
Please be patient and thank the crews for their hard work maintaining our streets and contributing to the quality of community life we all enjoy in Durango.
Melissa Youssef is mayor of Durango, a position rotating among members of City Council. Reach her at Melissa.Youssef@DurangoGov.org.