ALAMOSA — Alamosa may get its Main Street back.
MIG consultants who are developing a downtown design for the City of Alamosa told Alamosa city staff and council members during a work session this week that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is open to the idea of placing Alamosa’s Main Street under city jurisdiction and making Sixth Street the route for Highway 160.
MIG Project Manager Andy Rutz said CDOT was not only open to the idea but “remarkably excited about it” because CDOT would have less highway to maintain.
One of the proposals under the downtown design plan would be to revert Main Street to a two-way city street and Sixth Street to a two-way route for the state highway. Currently Main Street is one way going west and Sixth Street one way going east, both designated as Highway 160 routes.
The proposal would also call for the Highway 160 bridge across the Rio Grande to be relocated to better align traffic with Main Street, and MIG consultants said CDOT is agreeable with that as well but does not have the money to rebuild the bridge at this point.
MIG Director of Planning and Design Services Jay Renkens said MIG has had several conversations with CDOT staff and will continue to do so. He estimated that something could happen with CDOT and the highway changes as early as next year.
Renkens described Alamosa as having “amazing bones,” in its historic downtown buildings, but the highway running through Main Street with its truck traffic, noise and speed disrupts the downtown.
Pedestrians do not always feel safe crossing the street, community members told consultants during community meetings.
Renkens said there is also a disconnect between the downtown and the Rio Grande. The “Downtown on the Rio” plan would try to draw visitors to the river and Cole Park back into downtown. For example, the plan calls for Hunt Avenue to be a cultural thoroughfare that could host events like the Farmers Market and include a trail along one side down to the Cole Park and river area.
Hunt Avenue would also connect the railroad to downtown and the river, closing another gap.
Consultants have visited with downtown business owners about the challenges they face. For example, businesses said it is difficult for motorists to stop at their businesses if they are moving through town on the highway/Main Street and have to cross over two lanes to get to their business. Parking is also a problem, they said. The business owners also said things have changed dramatically since the courthouse moved out of the downtown area.
Rutz described the three main scenarios he and his colleagues developed for the downtown plan, with input from the public:
1) Rebuild/realign the highway bridge across the river so it connects directly to Main Street; return Main Street to two way and Sixth Street to two-way traffic; and give CDOT Sixth Street for Highway 160 and Main Street to the City of Alamosa.
2) Do the same thing as option #1 without rebuilding the bridge. Sixth Street would be a two-way state highway and Main Street would be maintained by the city.
3) Keep Main and Sixth one way streets but change the lanes from three to two and try to make these main thoroughfares more pedestrian and family friendly. Rutz said those who favored changing the highways back to two-way traffic were supportive of reducing the number of lanes as an interim measure.
Other goals/ideas include:
• Drawing more people to live downtown, taking advantage of the diversity of housing in the downtown area
• Making the downtown more of a destination rather than just driving through
• Better connections to the college and university campuses
• Improving alleyways with colored or textured paving, outdoor seating, lighting and wall murals
• Invigorate the commercial and retail core of the downtown on Main Street and side streets
• Focus on properties downtown that could be revitalized to become catalysts for economic growth, specifically riverfront property near the bridge owned by the city; old courthouse; Pink Elephant property; Lockhart building; Motorway; and Lamplighter.
• Turn San Juan Avenue into a festival street that could be closed off for events. Bring back a traffic signal at San Juan and Main Street or stop signs, which would be less expensive. Put bulb outs at the corner to narrow the lanes, slow traffic and make the crossing more pedestrian friendly.
• On Main Street include space for a designated bike lane or shared lanes and more space along the street or on the sidewalk for pedestrian areas, events, trees and planters and business use. What happens can be up to the businesses on that block in conjunction with the city, Rutz said.
The consultants said the big picture for Alamosa’s downtown redesign could be completed in phases with some of the more easily achievable goals reached in the first several months after the plan is approved. For example, murals could be painted downtown without too much expense and they could generate some excitement for future improvements, City Councilman Jan Vigil suggested. He also suggested something simple like painting crosswalks, like Adams State did by its music and business buildings.
Councilor Liz Hensley suggested one alley could be improved as a beginning step.
City Manager Heather Brooks said the city could also begin working on an intergovernmental agreement with CDOT.
Renkens said signage is also something that could be completed relatively inexpensively in the short term.
Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman said the city could probably progress more quickly with the festival and Hunt Avenue portions of the plan than with Main Street, but that would begin to impact the downtown businesses in a positive way.
MIG will likely bring the plan to the city for approval in May. Before that time the public will have another opportunity to give input during public meetings and online surveys.
The consultants are also closely working with a community advisory committee comprised of council members, planning commission members, Adams State and Trinidad State representatives, business owners, city and economic development staff.