What's up with the concrete barrier on the new section of U.S. Highway 550/160 at Bodo? Aesthetically, it's a disaster. Did the city not have any say in the design? Why not install a median with trees or bushes? That would have served as a positive addition to the current "green" initiative we're obsessed with. As I watch this monstrous barrier going up, it reminds me of a freeway in any Big City, U.S.A. What were they thinking? It's a government project, so the bigger question would be, was anyone thinking? - Sheri, Durango
Action Line wholeheartedly agrees with you. The median has all the visual charm of a painfully inflamed boil.
Unfortunately, concrete goes with the neighborhood.
Bodo Industrial Park is not, shall we say, a gracious garden spot - unless your vision of a garden is strip mall-style buildings fronted by seas of asphalt.
If Bodo is an "industrial park," where the heck is the "park"?
But, hey, at least Bodo is more attractive than Town Plaza.
U.S. Highway 550/160 and its accoutrements are the purview of the Colorado Department of Transportation, the agency that put Durango on the map with a Bridge to Nowhere.
Say what you will about CDOT, but traffic safety is its prime directive. So when it comes to medians, creating a greenbelt is a noble - but low - priority.
The main function of a concrete median is to prevent head-on crashes, according to CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.
As the areas south of town continue to grow, more and more idiots are on the road. Thus, the likelihood of nasty accidents will rise accordingly.
(A pre-emptive note here: Nancy is a respectful public servant who never, ever used the phrase "idiot" to describe motorists. If you are Nancy's boss reading this, be assured that "idiots" is purely Action Line's curmudgeonly categorization based on experience, especially the Thursday evening encounter with a black Ford truck who didn't use a turn signal near the Durango Mall because the pinhead driver had one hand on a cell phone and the other clasped a beverage of some sort. Pay attention, buster - and stop driving with your knees in a construction zone.)
Be that as it may ...
A planted median with shrubs and xeric perennials would be nice to look at, but it won't stop a drifting vehicle going 50 miles an hour, which is the speed limit everyone ignores while driving in from Bayfield or heading to Wal-Mart to buy their weekly ration of cheap plastic junk.
Shanks also provided some compelling reasons for a concrete median, the first of which is space.
Given the design requirements for two lanes and wide shoulders on each side, there is insufficient room to have a wide, planted center strip, especially if trees were installed.
How are trees going to be watered? An irrigated median would add significant cost to the project - and it's not like the state has money to burn.
Then think of how branches spread. Visualize semi-trucks zooming along in the left lanes. Young branching trees don't stand a chance.
But let's say trees miraculously became established. Shanks pointed out a wintertime peril.
Even leafless branches cast dappled shadows that greatly reduces snowmelt.
Northbound lanes would become icy at night, and southbound lanes would be slow to clear on snowy mornings.
So yes, the median puts a big "ug" in ugly. But having a beautiful parkway was not the mandate here.
Even though it seems otherwise, there was a lot of brainpower and engineering behind this project.
Like it or not, CDOT is a road-building agency, not a landscape design firm.
Longtime Durangoan Dave Bray provides this week's entry for the Mea Culpa Mailbag.
"I thought of the name for the 'bridge to nowhere,' he writes. "Bridge Over the River WHY"
"Start puckering up your whistler! 'Dah, Dah ... Dah, Dah, Dah ... Dah ... Dah ... Dah!"
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