Cortez city officials released more details on the upcoming Main Street median project at the first “public outreach meeting” held on Monday.
A handful of business owners and interested citizens went to the Sunflower Theatre on Monday morning to hear a presentation from Public Works Director Phil Johnson about the project. Johnson showed designs for the medians, which he plans to install on several blocks of Main Street this year, and fielded questions from the audience about how construction will affect businesses and traffic in the area. The project is scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 11.
“We’re going to improve the central business district, slow down traffic and improve the walkability for pedestrians,” Johnson said. “Medians are a traffic-calming technique, because what happens is, as you narrow a lane ... people tend to slow down.”
The medians, which will be of varying length, will be installed on each block from Ash to Elm street, as well as near the Edith Street intersection. Monday’s meeting focused mainly on the Edith Street median, which will also include a crosswalk with a flashing sign to stop traffic for pedestrians. Johnson said that median is the city’s priority, since it’s near the Montezuma-Cortez High School and students often cross Main Street to get to the McDonald’s.
Handicap-accessible ramps on the corners of several intersections will also be replaced as part of the project. Johnson said the medians will feature landscaping and possibly some public art.
He assured the audience that left turns would not be impeded at any affected intersection, but the median near Edith Street will prevent cars from turning left out of the McDonald’s parking lot or making U-turns. He also said that although the medians would narrow the inner traffic lanes, they would not affect parking on Main Street.
Tiffani Waters, owner of the Main Street business Love on a Hanger, asked several questions about the construction of the medians, which Johnson said would take about 14 weeks. She questioned why the public works department had chosen to start the project in the fall.
“The busiest season for all your businesses is September through December,” she said.
City Manager Shane Hale said the city wanted to start construction after peak tourism season and the start of the school year. He also said at least one lane of traffic would be kept open on Main Street throughout the project.
“There’s no good time for a construction project,” Johnson said.
Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde asked about how the medians would affect city snow removal, since plows usually dump snow in the middle lane of Main Street. Johnson said his staff would have to “change (their) snow-removal tactics” to accommodate the medians, which could include outside contractors during heavy snowstorms.
At the Cortez Fire District board of directors’ meeting on July 12, several board members expressed concern about the median project, especially since some said it would make it more difficult for firetrucks to navigate Main Street. But after Monday’s meeting, Vandevoorde said his worries had been lifted. He said the designs Johnson presented showed turn lanes that should be long enough for any of Cortez’s firetrucks.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing,” he said. “It’s going to look nice, and we really need to slow traffic down.”
Johnson said he expected to award contractor bids in August. The $560,000 project will be funded partly by a $200,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, with the rest of the money coming from Cortez’s street improvement fund.
Johnson and Hale will appear at four more public outreach meetings, scheduled for July 19, 24, 26 and 31. Each meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at the Sunflower Theatre.