This rendition shows a pedestrian traverse in the place of the center turn lane on Main Street. The rendition was created by Downtown Redevelopment Services and Avenue Consultants based on community input, and then presented to Moab City Council and community members at two open meetings on May 22 and 23. [Courtesy image]

The heart of Moab is changing.

Plans are already underway to develop new parking structures in downtown Moab, and with the recent presentation of community surveys, the city may consider making additional changes to its downtown plan.

As a part of the city’s overall downtown plan, the public was invited to weigh in on the vision for developing downtown Moab.

The area under consideration is the Main Street corridor, roughly defined by 100 East to 100 West by 300 South to 400 North, from the Walker Drug shopping center on the south end to the Sweet Cravings bakery on the north end.

Surveys were conducted to gauge the public’s desires for the downtown plan.

Thomas McMurtry, of Avenue Consultants, and Ben Levenger, president of Downtown Redevelopment Services, conducted the surveys and traveled from Salt Lake City to give presentations of the results on May 22 and 23. Levenger is the project manager for the downtown plan.

The results of the surveys show a desire to make traffic, pedestrian and housing changes to the Main Street corridor, to include affordable housing above mixed-use retail stores downtown; a pedestrian traverse to replace the center turn lane; larger sidewalks for pedestrians; the planting of additional trees and vegetation; LED lighting; and painted lines to distinguish individual parking spaces.

McMurtry and Levenger presented the results to Moab City Council members on May 22. The following day, they presented the results at an open community meeting at the city building.

“We have had overwhelming support on the downtown plan so far,” Levenger told city council members. “In the original survey we had a little over 400 complete the survey.”

About 40 percent of survey respondents indicated that they have lived in Moab for 20 years or longer.

“We have had over 126 (public) comments so far,” McMurtry said.

Levenger said that all of the public comments will be made available in the appendix of the finalized plan.

“We heard overwhelming support for the bypass,” Levenger said.

A bypass would steer traffic on the Main Street (U.S. Highway 191) corridor by creating a separate highway, and another bridge, over the Colorado River.

McMurtry and Levenger said the public’s input also places a big emphasis on making the Main Street corridor safer for pedestrians, and more diverse for both locals and tourists.

“Increased pedestrian safety, that’s one of the (top) items,” Levenger said.

McMurtry said that he and Levenger used drones to capture aerial shots of traffic and pedestrians in the downtown area. They also spent time watching the pedestrians downtown and looking at how people park when they drive into downtown.

One of the most surprising things that they said they noticed was the number of pedestrians on Main Street who choose not to use the crosswalks and instead run across the five lanes of traffic.

Currently, Main Street has two southbound lanes, a center turn lane and two northbound lanes of traffic.

From the results of the survey, Levenger and McMurtry developed a rendition of a pedestrian traverse that would prevent pedestrians from running across the five lanes of traffic.

A pedestrian traverse would narrow the roadway and shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, McMurtry said. The center turn lane on Main Street would be removed and the pedestrian traverse would take its place — it would likely be a raised concrete traverse with trees planted down the center.

If a pedestrian did run across the roadway, they would only cross two lanes of traffic before stopping at the traverse, and then continue across the next two lanes of traffic. Ultimately, however, there was support for increasing pedestrian safety by creating safer crosswalks, parking spaces and placing new signage in the area.

Marking the parallel spaces along the Main Street corridor would improve the downtown area, McMurtry and Levenger said. The spaces are not painted to show designated parking spaces along the street. As McMurtry and Levenger conducted their surveys downtown and watched people park their cars, they said it was “like the wild, wild West.”

“People can park wherever they want to, and that means they might leave too much space between the vehicles,” McMurtry said, adding that more vehicles could park along the Main Street corridor if the parking areas were painted to show designated spaces.

At the second presentation on May 23, Levenger and McMurtry presented the survey results to members of the community, and said there is a lot of support for developing mixed-use retail spaces downtown.

The mixed-use retail spaces would retain shopping stores and retailers on Main Street, and allow for affordable housing to be developed in the upper storeys of the buildings.

Residents also said they want to see more retail and businesses downtown that reflect the needs of both locals and tourists.

Ellyn Johnson lives downtown and attended the community meeting. She and her husband, Michael, operate Westside Flats, a commercial nightly rental business on Williams Way.

“We live downtown and we would just love to see diversification downtown so that it will improve the economic goals of people that live in the area with diversification, rather than just hotels. It would be wonderful to have some retail, some mixed-use housing above retail for people who desperately need affordable housing,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that among the safety issues around the downtown corridor is the absence of a crosswalk at 100 West.

“You can’t even get across it. Cars can’t turn on Williams Way. Safety is an issue, but I just see, beautification and mixed-use retail, as opposed to just hotels,” Johnson said.

The downtown plan is a part of the city’s ongoing General Plan for downtown development.

“The (downtown plan) is a standalone effort, focused on the central core of the city, that will enhance the unique historic, social and cultural character of downtown, and diversify, strengthen and promote the downtown economy,” Moab City Planning Director Jeff Reinhart said. “The hope is that an appealing and safe environment will emerge, that has a welcoming and comfortable pedestrian orientation.”

Main Street housing, traffic bypass, pedestrian safety among topics discussed at meetings

We live downtown and we would just love to see diversification downtown so that it will improve the economic goals of people that live in the area with diversification, rather than just hotels. It would be wonderful to have some retail, some mixed-used housing above retail for people who desperately need affordable housing.