Don't walk back bridge project

To the editor,

I am writing in response to Catherine Boyle’s letter (“Using pedestrian funds wisely,” Oct. 24) that only partially described the scope of the 32nd Street Bridge project and pits it against another need to improve safety on the Holly to CR 250 section of 32nd Street.

Ms. Boyle accurately described the plan for a pedestrian bridge “south of the current bridge and its two sidewalks,” but did not mention that this project also includes a second contiguous pedestrian bridge to cross 32nd Street, thus connecting the Animas River Trail (ART) on the east side (south of 32nd) with the ART on the west side (north of 32nd), thus fulfilling the ART’s long-term vision for no at-grade crossings the full length of the trail.

It is a vision advanced by our community, championed by our Parks & Recreation Department and supported by the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (by a 6-1 vote); Multimodal Advisory Board (unanimously); staff; consultants; and prior city councils to fund the completion of this project from Memorial Park to Oxbow Preserve for public safety (not a claim, a fact), improved connectivity and accessibility. Segregating motorized traffic from all other – bike, pedestrian, families with strollers, seniors, people with disabilities, dogs and kids – is the only way to 100 percent ensure the safety of ART users.

Ms. Boyle accurately stated, “this road is far more heavily used than ever.” Indeed, in a March 2019 engineering report, it was identified as the second busiest street in Durango with an average daily traffic (ADT) count of 10,742 (5,479 eastbound and 5,263 westbound vehicles), second only to College Drive (12,241ADT) and busier than Florida Road (10,604 ADT).

There is a clear need for pedestrian and bicycle safety the extent of 32nd Street from North Main to CR 250, but one decades long-planned project with dedicated sales-tax funding should not be scrapped to fund another. That would be a false dichotomy since improving the Holly to CR 250 section is not currently something the city can do anything about since the land is largely in the county.

As Ms. Boyle urges, the limited funding we have should be used wisely. In this case, that would be demonstrated by City Council putting public safety first and fulfilling the wishes of its constituents by budgeting for the (two) bridges as they simultaneously work with the county to begin planning for improvements to the other end of 32nd street.

Want to add your voice to the budgeting process? Attend the public hearing on the 2020 Budget on Tues., Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

– Ellen Stein, Durango