Group looks at future of Clovis, Portales downtown areas

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

New Mexico Department of Transportation members viewed futuristic appearances of Clovis and Portales downtown areas on Thursday.

Portales and Clovis MainStreet members discussed and displayed conceptual designs to members of the Bicycle/Pedestrian/Equestrian Advisory Committee of the New Mexico Department of Transportation in the Memorial Building in Portales.

The BPE advisory committee, created in 1995, develops recommendations for engineers of bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian facilities.

Some of the topics on the agenda for the advisory committee members were about the projects under way in Santa Rosa, Fort Sumner, Clovis and Portales.

The advisory committee helps cities by giving suggestions and using its experience to inform planners of pitfalls and possible obstacles.

Dan Stover, supervisor of the regional planning section, said all transportation dollars go through District 2 Engineer Gary Shubert. Through this process, MainStreet members can obtain money for their qualifying projects through Shubert and the district’s office in Roswell.

“I would encourage you to go through the RPO (regional planning organization) process for these projects if you want to see these happen,” Stover said. “This is the route to take if you want to go forward.”

The city of Portales is looking at a project that would fall under the umbrella of the advisory committee — a bike and walk path on Fourth Street, connecting Eastern New Mexico University to the downtown area.

Greg Erf of the Portales MainStreet Organization questioned how often a bike and walk path would be used because bike sales are down. Bicycle sales, reported by the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, continued to decline in the third quarter of 2003 with year-to-date unit sales down 498,000 units (22 percent) and dollar sales declined by $78 million (15 percent).

State BPE coordinator Tim Rogers felt the target audience for the bike path — ENMU students — would be likely to use such paths.

“The plans (for bike paths) I have seen successful tend to be the places with universities, such as Albuquerque with UNM (University of New Mexico),” Rogers said. “It’s successful because university students are the type of people who would most consider riding bikes.”

Erf said there are other projects in the downtown area such as improving sidewalks and the Yam Movie Palace. The Yam Movie Palace includes community movie nights and theater events.

Bicycle routes are also options Julie Charters, Clovis MainStreet program manager, said Clovis officials are looking at. Charters presented the advisory committee a conceptual design of two separate projects to renovate Main Street and the railroad district.

Charters said the main street organization wants to find ways to funnel some of the traffic from Highway 60-84 to main street and its merchants. Charters said Sites Southwest of Albuquerque was hired to come up with the architectural designs of the downtown area.

An advisory committee member said the challenge will be finding a way to slow down traffic on Highway 60-84 and funnel it to Main Street.

Proposed renovation will be on Main Street from First Street to Eighth Street. Charters said the conceptual designs have changes to the parking spots from 45 degrees to 33 degrees to help drivers see oncoming traffic.

“We want the area to be pedestrian friendly,” Charters said. “Our downtown is not bike friendly. We want to find a way to encourage people to go downtown, like (furnishing) bike racks and fixing the cracks.”

The design also has mid-block crosswalks on Main Street. Charters said the Mesa Theater, located off Main Street, was donated to Clovis Community College. She said $30,000 was obtained from the state Legislature to redo the Mesa Theater roof.

She said Clovis Community College representatives want to have classes at Mesa Theater and rename it the Norman Petty Performance Center to attract people to the downtown area.