Cortez city staff held a public information meeting on Thursday to address residents’ complaints about the Main Street median project.
About 35 people crowded into the City Hall council chambers to hear presentations from City Manager Shane Hale, Public Works Director Phil Johnson and other planning and engineering staff, and to ask questions about the project. Staff members went over the details of construction and the impacts they expect the project to have on traffic and parking, in an attempt to counter what they called inaccurate perceptions by the public. The entire project, including the medians, new accessible sidewalk ramps and improvements to the pavement on some nearby alleys, will cost about $1.07 million and is scheduled to be completed by the end of September.
Johnson spoke about the history of the project and clarified details that had been brought up in other meetings, such as the planned size of the medians and their location on four blocks of Main Street in the central business district, as well as the planned new crossing and pedestrian refuge near the Edith Street intersection. Each median will leave a 95-foot-long turn lane, he said, which local emergency services personnel have said will be sufficient for fire trucks, ambulances and other large vehicles.
After his presentation, most of the meeting was dedicated to answering questions from the audience about details like the wheelchair-friendliness of the new sidewalk ramps, and broader issues like the city’s transparency in creating its Main Street access control plan.
Cortez Area Chamber of Commerce Director Rocky Moss, who was involved with the Heart and Soul community planning program that led to the median project, said the medians were conceived to address residents’ desire for a beautified downtown that was safer for pedestrians.
“Medians have been shown to provide that pedestrian-friendly feel,” she said. “You’re going to have people going more slowly, and that feeling’s going to be palpable.”
She added that the timing of construction, in the middle of peak tourist season, is “terrible,” but said the chamber would do everything possible to minimize the impact on business owners.
Tiffani Randall, owner of Main Street business Love on a Hanger, said she was concerned about parking for businesses during the construction process. Hale said Friday that her comment led him to consider asking the owners of some vacant lots downtown if they could open them for extra parking over the summer.
Johnson said the goal of Thursday’s meeting was to counter what he called inaccurate perceptions being spread on social media.
“I think we brought some facts and figures to light, different from what people are seeing on Facebook,” he said.
Although a statement on the city website says construction will begin May 21, Johnson said on Friday that it likely won’t start until the first week of June. The city has hired a construction company to install the medians, but Johnson said it can’t start until the Colorado Department of Transportation finishes reviewing the project’s budget.
A recording of Thursday’s meeting can be found on the City Council Live Stream page at www.cityofcortez.com.