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Downtown Cortez road project includes medians, crosswalks

The Cortez City Council on Tuesday approved a grant application to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for the first phase of a Main Street road project and unveiled plans for new medians and a pedestrian crossing at Edith Street.

The road plan is the result of a city partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation that began in 2015 to develop an access control plan for Main Street, from Maple Street east to Patton Street near Denny Lake Park.

The plan will be implemented in three phases, each covering a different segment of Main Street, City Manager Shane Hale said Tuesday.

Phase 1, which would be completed this year, focuses on the stretch from Elm Street to Ash Street, or the “central business district.” According to the access control plan, 46 percent of all traffic accidents on Main Street between 2009 and 2013 happened in this area, or about 33 accidents per year.

The revised plan includes installing 20-inch raised medians to replace the turn lane in several places along Main Street, starting with the Edith Street crossing. That crossing would include a rectangular rapid flash beacon to stop traffic and let pedestrians know when it was safe to cross.

“On our streets and highways, there’s a lot of concrete to cross,” Hale said. “There are four lanes and a classic turn lane. So for this phase we’ll be focused on pedestrians, giving them less to cross and hopefully some areas where they’ll feel more secure.”

Hale said a median would give pedestrians a place to stop while crossing the road, and encourage traffic to slow down before turning at major crossings.

Because of the median, the preliminary design for Phase 1 would no longer allow drivers to take a left turn onto Main Street from the McDonald’s drive-thru, a change that was recommended by CDOT. Phil Johnson, director of the Cortez Public Works Department, said he wasn’t sure whether the design would allow a left turn into McDonald’s from Main Street because such details haven’t been decided.

“At this point, we’re at the planning stages,” he said.

Johnson said earlier versions of the plan put a crossing at Roger Smith Avenue, which will lead to the new City Hall, but city staff decided to move it to Edith Street after getting feedback from area business owners. He said that, ever since the relocation of Montezuma-Cortez High School, more students have been crossing the street on foot to get to McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Several tour bus companies also have a parking agreement with Big R across the street, and they contribute to the increase in foot traffic.

Hale said city staff haven’t hired contractors or drawn up a final plan, in part because they’re waiting to see whether they will receive the DOLA grant.

The $200,000 grant, which would come from the Energy/Mineral Impact Assistance Fund, would provide about 31 percent of the cost of Phase 1. The city has budgeted about $655,000 for Phase 1 – $376,046 for safety improvements, $184,099 for repaving and alley work, and $94,997 for a previously unannounced pedestrian crossing at the McDonald’s, 1322 E. Main St. McDonald’s has pledged to contribute $4,800 to this part of the project.

“Without the grant the full cost of the project would be borne by the city of Cortez,” Hale wrote in his presentation to the council. “If the grant is approved, staff will be back to the Council with the signing of a contract with the State and with information concerning the next steps of the project such as bidding and contracts for project completion.”

If the grant is approved, he said the city is planning to begin construction on the Main Street project after Labor Day, and they hope to have it completed by the end of the year.

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