UPDATE | AUG. 4, 2021
ALAMOSA, CO – Nobody showed up at Wednesday’s Alamosa City Council meeting to complain about the redesign of Main Street Alamosa but the city was prepared in case.
City Manager Heather Brooks provided comments to council members, explaining the extensive process the city undertook that resulted in the downtown redesign.
We do some of that ourselves below.
If you haven’t driven Main Street Alamosa lately, you will find yourself slowing and paying close attention to the parked cars on either side and pedestrians looking to cross from one side to the other. That’s because the city convinced the Colorado Department of Transportation to take away a lane and make Main Street a two-lane one way in an effort to slow the traffic and cater to pedestrians who frequent the restaurants and shops.
“The design is created to have friction, to make people feel as if it’s tight, to make people feel that they want to slow down,” Brooks explained. “It’s a very creative design to where it feels tighter, and it’s to slow the traffic down and that friction is working.”
We explain more about the whole process below.
So why did the city manager feel the need to speak up? “There’s quite a bit of chatter out there,” she said. She’s probably talking about Facebook.
What happened to bike lanes?
BY OWEN WOODS
ALAMOSA – On July 20th, CDOT began transforming three-lane Main Street into a new, two-lane Main Street. It has also begun installing barriers and bollards, and widening sidewalk areas to include more space for outdoor dining, art installations, retail displays, and more space for bike parking.
Not included: the bike lanes that had been part of Main Street. Instead, cyclists are being encouraged to access Main Street through the side streets that lead to Main – State, San Juan, Edison, Ross, Hunt.
“We didn’t feel bikes were safe for Main Street,” said Rachel Baird, director of development services for the city of Alamosa.
She added: “This was not a lightly-made decision. This was a group decision, and a safety decision,” Baird said.
Back in May 2018, Alamosa initiated a public process to engage residents on the redesign of Main Street. The city called the project Downtown on the Rio, and hired MIG Consultants to help residents reimagine downtown and Main Street. Through the process residents were asked whether to return Main Street to a two-way street or keep it one-way. Community design charrettes were held to capture ideas on how to make Main Street more friendly to pedestrians, how to encourage more local residents and tourists to visit Main Street, its restaurants and retails shops; and how to use the side streets around Main Street for street festivals, farmer’s market and other attractions to pull people into downtown Alamosa.
“If you add vibrancy, young people and entrepreneurs will move here,” Baird said.
WHY IT MATTERS
Show us a vibrant city – small, medium, large – and there’s a good chance the downtown of that city has a lot to offer. The core of a town matters, and in this case Main Street Alamosa has been in need of a jolt. Ever since Main and Sixth streets were converted to one-way in 2008, this has been a point of discourse, with lots of conversations on how downtown can become a more welcoming environment for everyone.
Alamosa’s biggest challenge in reimagining Main Street and pushing ahead with the strategies identified in MIG’s recommendations for Downtown on the Rio is the fact Main Street is technically still Highway 160. And in the case of CDOT, its goal of pushing traffic through Alamosa as quickly as it can runs counter to the city’s desire for a more active Main Street, where traffic doesn’t race along and instead pedestrians are valued and catered to.
“We really want to encourage a pedestrian-friendly downtown,” Baird said.
With the exclusion of bike lanes from Denver Avenue to Edison Avenue, the city is encouraging cyclists to access Main Street from different pathways. “We’re trying to shift bike culture and shift people to access Main Street from the side streets.”