DPW Wants to Ram a Wider MLK Boulevard Through Stapleton

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.03.09 AM
Image: DPW

With one hand, Mayor Michael Hancock and his Department of Public Works are making ambitious commitments to end traffic deaths, but with the other, they’re still redesigning streets in a way that will increase the risk of people getting killed. The latest case in point: Public Works plans to widen Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard by two lanes, creating more dangerous conditions in a growing neighborhood.

The $15 million project will extend and widen one mile of MLK in Stapleton, from Havana Street to Peoria Street, slicing through a residential area where new housing and retail are on the way.

Public Works hosted a meeting on the project Thursday. Engineers assured residents that they gave prairie dogs due heed when studying the project’s effects on the neighborhood [PDF]. But what about increased traffic and higher motor vehicle speeds that could kill human beings?

Project planners admit in their own analysis that the widening will cause more particulate emissions and “increased speeds” [PDF]. The city is building it anyway.

The redesign calls for lanes as wide as 12 or 13 feet. Why are the lanes going to be that wide, when research shows that 10-foot-wide lanes are safer? “Standards” dictated by the fire department, said Dennis Arbogast, a consultant with AECOM. “We can’t get any skinnier than that,” Arbogast said. “Believe me, we’ve tried.”

So far, Stapleton has failed to live up to its billing as a pedestrian paradise. Widening a major street in the neighborhood won’t help. While the new project will come with 10-foot walking and biking paths on each side of MLK, those improvements could be built without adding a car lane in both directions.

Like other antiquated projects, the MLK widening is lurching ahead because it now has funding. Since the project was conceived in 2010, Denver has adopted new goals to make walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly streets — goals that are entirely at odds with widening MLK.

Even though the city has posted no planning documents for the project (Streetsblog got the environmental analysis in an email), construction could begin as soon as this summer unless Mayor Hancock intervenes.

  • John Riecke

    So the consultant experts are telling the city to build skinnier and their professional opinions are being overruled by a fire department with no experience in building safe streets or walkable neighborhoods? Someone needs to stand up and say that the fire department should conform to the cityscape, not the other way around. We’d all be safer and our infrastructure wouls be cheaper.

  • neroden

    It’s time for Mayor Hancock to intervene. This sort of zombie project needs to be killed with fire.

  • spr8364

    It is true that 12 and 13 foot lanes is ridiculous, but this widening is just part of competing the road system in Stapleton. I’m not too sure why this extension is any different from any other road extension. This may also help to divert some traffic from more residential neighborhoods.

  • Michael A. Wallin

    Catch-22. Denver Fire is requiring 12-13 ft lanes so that they can speed to the auto/pedestrian accident that was a result of over wide lanes which encourage people to speed. Sigh…

  • neroden

    They can make it skinnier than that. They’re just choosing not to.

    This is a zombie project. Kill it with fire.

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