Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Durnango needs to fix Camino del Rio crossing NOW

While it's good plans are under discussion to improve the intersection at 12th Street and Camino del Rio sometime in the next decade, the city needs to immediately do something to help pedestrians cross the highway in that area.

The city has done and is doing many excellent things along the riverfront -- the bike path, parks and benches, and the fantastic skateboard park that has become such a positive and important social spot for many of Durango's youth. Those positive developments, though, have created a dangerous situation along Camino del Rio – and a responsibility for the city.

In our house, we call it Camino del Muerto. My wife and I do this partly jokingly, but also to remind our kids that Camino del Rio is a gauntlet of death waiting to take down teenagers crossing a road they've crossed dozens of times, excitedly headed to a place they go to all the time.

Yes, I understand that our kids -- and everyone, tourists and residents alike -- should use the available options for crossing Camino del Rio, at the light at 9th Street or on the underpass at the Main Avenue bridge. But many people -- for I've seen everyone from parents with toddlers to old folks lurching nervously across that five-lane death run – can’t help but make a bee-line. It’s human nature – and it’s particularly the nature of those impatient, impulsive, cocky, testosterone-driven creatures we call teen-aged boys. The very people drawn to places like the skateboard park.

So while I'm glad my son, and his friends, and tourists who come to Durango with teen-aged kids have a splendid amenity like the skateboard park, the bike path, the riverside parks, and, soon, the Durango Discovery Museum (which many people already are going to see under construction), the city has to take responsibility for its choices, immediately, before the inevitable tragedy occurs.

Here I think specifically of the four-lane highway crossing in Mancos, where CDOT dragged its feet on putting in a light until four people were run down -- the last a 12-year-old girl -- just trying to get from one side of town to the other.

A bridge over the highway. Using of the existing light. Anything. But do something. Now. You owe it to both the town and its visitors. Before the nickname "Camino del Muerto" is no longer a joke.

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