Durango residents remained split Tuesday about a pedestrian bridge at 32nd Street, with those in opposition offering alternatives and people in support demanding the multimillion project be built this year as planned.
More than a dozen people attended City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday to comment about a $4.1 million proposal to build a pedestrian bridge across the Animas River, over the railroad tracks and 32nd Street to connect to the Animas River Trail north, a new 1-mile path leading to Oxbow Park and Preserve.
The Parks and Recreation Department presented to City Council the history of plans to extend the Animas River Trail north, citing high traffic on 32nd Street and a 2001 commitment to no at-grade street crossings anywhere along the main pedestrian thoroughfare.
Durango Police Department in the past 10 years issued 1,190 citations for speeding on 32nd Street, said Cathy Metz, Parks and Recreation director. About 95 crashes have been recorded in the same time period, she said.
Tuesday’s meeting was the second of four scheduled in response to community uproar after a rough rendering of the bridge proposal was made public. More than 100 people attended the first scheduled meeting before the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
City Councilors agreed to hold their comments and questions until all scheduled public meetings are held. No decisions were made Tuesday night.
About half of the people who spoke to City Council on Tuesday supported the plan, citing a need for safety at the intersection, a decades-long planning process and funding for the project dedicated in the city’s 2020 spending plans.
The other half of residents offered alternatives to the city’s plans to connect the Animas River Trail north to Oxbow Park and Preserve.
Some suggested the trail stay on the west side of the river from behind the Durango Community Recreation Center to 32nd Street, eliminating the need for a bridge across the Animas River and the railroad tracks. Others said crossing the river at the existing 32nd Street bridge could work in lieu of a separate pedestrian bridge.
Former City Councilor Dick White said he supports building the pedestrian bridge as planned this year. Delaying the project will result in a higher cost, as the cost of construction increases each year, he said.
Spending on the project could be used for other improvements to the Parks and Recreation system, but “the Animas River Trail remains the centerpiece of our prize-winning parks program,” White said.
Emily Lloyd, who lives on East Third Avenue near 32nd Street, said she was upset by the first rendering published in The Durango Herald. But she went to the first meeting at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and said she was convinced of the safety hazards nearby.
But building a bridge over the river so close to 32nd Street is “very imposing,” she said.
John Agnew, who lives with Lloyd on East Third Avenue, called the project “a monster” and suggested a pedestrian bridge be built farther south along the river.
“Let’s keep thinking about it,” he said. “Let’s not rush it through because it has to be done. It seems like we’re pushing this through without thinking about all the options on the table.”
Two more public meetings about the crossing will be held. The first at 4 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Multimodal Advisory Board meeting in City Hall, 949 East Second Ave., and the second will be a community meeting at 5 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Durango Community Recreation Center, 2700 Main Ave.