Exec Director of CDOT gets first-hand look at Alamosa’s downtown changes

CDOT Executive Director Shoshonna Lew and staff discussing Main Street project with city executives.

“It exceeded all my expectations”

ALAMOSA– When Shoshona Lew, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and key staff from CDOT’s Region Five came to Alamosa this week for a first-hand look at changes to Main Street made with funding granted via CDOT’s “Revise Main Street” program, she wasn’t sure what she would find.

Her primary focus was on the “lane diet” – the part of the plan that narrowed Main Street from a three-lane to a two-lane road.

Once she was in Alamosa and saw what had been accomplished, she had nothing but high praise for the results.

“What I’ve seen has exceeded all my expectations,” Lew said. And that was not the only praise that was shared.

Lew met with Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks, Director of Development Services Rachel Baird, Director of Public Works Harry Reynolds and Mayor Ty Coleman.  During the meeting, Lew also cited the project for being based on a well-developed plan that, in the process of approval, allowed significant, ongoing input from the community. Once that plan began to be implemented, Lew further praised council members for continuing to provide opportunities for public input and, when concerns were voiced, listening to those concerns, subsequently making minor modifications based on those concerns yet doing so without responding with a “knee-jerk” reaction that completely backtracked on what had been agreed upon and approved. 

Governor Polis had made the revitalization of Main Streets in rural communities a priority for spending when Covid-19 funds were made available through the first Covid relief package of funding passed under the previous administration.

Many Main Street businesses were devastated by economic fall-out from the pandemic and, according to Lew, what the city of Alamosa has done was directly in line with what was envisioned in responding to challenging times, including the purchase of parklets for outdoor dining, the “lane diet” and flashing pedestrian signs. It should also be noted that those expenditures were matched with other funds the city received through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act.

In other words, none of the expenditures have come from the city’s general fund and funding received was specifically earmarked for “downtown” related projects. No other projects within the city would have qualified.

Director Lew informed the group the concept of balancing a state highway that is also Main Street and making it inviting and safe for pedestrians is a model they are sharing with other small communities across the state.

Already one city – Delta – has expressed interest in doing something similar.

It was also acknowledged that additional work needs to be done to complete the project. Director Lew told city staff that she would be happy to write a letter of support for any request of additional grant funding, indicating not only CDOT’s support for the project but indicating they are partners in the project. She also offered the assistance of CDOT’s grant writer in reviewing any budget they would submit in a grant application, making sure that the “pieces lined up.”

Brooks described Lew’s offer of assistance as “great” and something that would be of enormous help.

“This was a real partnership,” Lew told the Valley Courier when asked to describe the process of instituting significant changes to the commercial district. “And that’s how we operate. Local communities make the decisions about what they want to do and we’re there to advise and support them in their efforts.”

The city of Alamosa has been the talk at the state level for the improvements and investments that were made during a very challenging time, she said.

Executive Director Lew was also accompanied on her visit by Julie Constan, Region 5 Regional Transportation Director; Jennifer Allison, Traffic and Safety Program Engineer;  and David Peyton, Traffic and Safety Resident Engineer.

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