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Main Street program could change Midtown Ruidoso
[November 16, 2012]

Main Street program could change Midtown Ruidoso

Nov 15, 2012 (Ruidoso News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Major changes in the traffic, parking and pedestrian access in midtown Ruidoso may lie ahead, especially if the historic tourist shopping core of the community enrolls in the nationally-recognized MainStreet program, the village manager told councilors Tuesday.

MainStreet is the same program that more than a decade ago brought trees to soften the image and provide shade in midtown, along with better sidewalks, benches and trash cans.

But state Department of Transportation officials from the District 2 office in Roswell aren't waiting to look at the problems and to try to find solutions. District Engineer Bob Kurtz said Wednesday the department hired the firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the same company that performed a study four years ago looking at the entire village and a possible bypass using Gavilan Canyon.

"We've asked them to zero in on the area (along Sudderth) from Country Club Drive to the intersection with Mechem Drive and look at the level of service and how it could be improved," he said. The analysis includes parking, pedestrian access and possible tweaks of the traffic signals, he said The study will kick off with a teleconference next week, but after the first of the year, sessions with the public will be scheduled, he said. The same two engineers who performed the first study will be handling the assignment, will take more traffic and pedestrian counts and will build on the already existing data.

Councilors at the Tuesday meeting broached the subject of parking spaces that seem to be narrower after resurfacing work by a state contractor along Sudderth Drive, which is New Mexico State Highway 48. Councilor Gloria Sayers said she was in Midtown a couple of days earlier and she could clearly see where lines previously were painted and where they are now.

Village Manager Debi Lee said officials from the state DOT came back to Ruidoso and measured the parking lane. She said Kurtz insists it is in compliance. "The lines may have changed, but they are within the limits allowed," she said. "I think the issue is should (the spaces be confined) to compact cars or not. I think that is one of the things we're going to talk about when they come back. They're very willing to make them right, if they need to be." Councilor Lynn Crawford said he sees large sports utility vehicles parking in spaces designated for compact cars.

Sayers said the situation is dangerous whatever size car is parked.

"I have a compact car and if you open the door, you're gone," she said. "If you're getting your child or your cane or you're doing something and not paying 100 percent attention to the traffic coming around that corner. That stripe is right next to your automobile, there's no (extra space)." Lee said the city of Artesia experienced a similar problem, joined the MainStreet program and changed the parking.

"They now park at an angle," she said. "That's the benefit of a MainStreet program, you get to work with the DOT and their traffic engineer." Options might include reducing the number of traffic lanes or using other methods to slow down traffic, she said. "We need more area for parking and to make the midtown area more walkable for pedestrians," Lee said. "Someone was hit here a few years ago and it happened up north as well. With four lanes, the pedestrian starts walking and a car in another lane doesn't see them.

"That's what I hope to accomplish with this study (DOT officials) are going to do. I really want us to have a seat at the table. They invited us. And I want the midtown business people to be involved. I think its time to really think about some changes." The only way to encourage more foot traffic is to make it safe and convenient for people to walk and to park, she said.

"This is really very serious," Sayers said. "It's a disaster waiting to happen. You can't get out of your car." Lee said she's never worked with the consultants DOT is sending, "but Bob Kurtz told them to get started right away. They're consultants. They're not from here, don't live here. We need to tell them what it is like." Crawford asked if the study was initiated because of "all the whining" from village councilors and drivers about the new bulbed-out curbs and narrow parking spaces.

"I think they have their schedule," Lee said.

"They're asking us if we want to keep the speed humps (at each end of midtown)," she said. "We have an opportunity to comment on that. If we don't, they will make a decision. I think the issue is they want us to be involved. Bob comes up here a lot and he received a lot of calls down at his office (about the curbs and parking). They're pretty sensitive to all of Sudderth and Mechem (Drive, NM 48 heading north), not just midtown." "I don't care how wide the spaces are, if people don't slow down on Sudderth, we're going to have a disaster there," Mayor Ray Alborn said. "I worry about people coming out from between cars to cross the road, some with strollers. As fast as some of those cars are going, (they wouldn't be able to stop in time)." Lee previously was involved with the MainStreet program when she served in other cities and said it is a national tool for economic development. "A lot (of the reason for its success) is because it is the property and business owners who get involved about how they want to change it." she said. "Government is not good at that. We're good at facilitating the process." ___ (c)2012 the Ruidoso News (Ruidoso, N.M.) Visit the Ruidoso News (Ruidoso, N.M.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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