Reimagine the Neighborhood-Destroying Interchange at Colfax and Federal

The cloverleaf interchange at Colfax and Federal. Image: Google Maps
The cloverleaf interchange at Colfax and Federal. Image: Google Maps

The cloverleaf at the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Federal Boulevard is no lucky charm — it’s a barrier between neighborhoods that locals and advocates want to tear down.

“If you happen to be on foot or on a bike, you can’t cross it,” said Lisa Saenz, president of the Sun Valley Local Resident Council.

The elevated structure, which is the property of Colorado DOT, cuts right through the Sun Valley and West Colfax neighborhoods. Now WalkDenver and the West Colfax Business Improvement District are looking to remake the interchange on a more human scale with a campaign called Over the Colfax Clover, starting with a community meeting on Thursday.

City initiatives like the Federal Boulevard Corridor Study have identified the cloverleaf as a barrier, but that’s usually where the discussion ends. The new campaign aims to push CDOT and city leaders to fund and implement the removal, and at the very least a redesign, of the archaic structure.

“It’s completely out of place,” said WalkDenver Executive Director Gosia Kung. “It’s out of context for an urban area.”

A rough rendering of how an at-grade intersection might look. Image: Design Workshop
A rough rendering of how an at-grade intersection might look. Image: Design Workshop

There are plenty of places to walk to nearby — the RTD Decatur-Federal light rail and bus transfer station, schools, health centers, Corky Gonzalaz Library, Broncos Stadium. But the cloverleaf makes the area completely hostile to school kids to walk or catch the bus. The elevated interchange only works for people in cars.

There’s not even a traffic-related justification for a piece of highway infrastructure in this location. The cloverleaf carries about 8,000 fewer vehicles each weekday than the at-grade intersection of Colfax and Colorado Boulevard, according to Denver Public Works.

The cloverleaf also consumes about 29 acres of public land that could be used for homes or other community assets instead, said Kung. WalkDenver and the West Colfax BID are planning to throw a block party of sorts under one of the “leaves” this summer to demonstrate the possibilities.

The meeting is Thursday, March 16, at 6 p.m. at 3275 W. 14th Ave, second floor. The organizers will have childcare, food, and interpretation available. Here’s the flyer in English and Spanish.

  • TakeFive

    I’m totally sold on the benefits of removing the cloverleaf.

    The sad part is the best you can likely expect from CDOT is to make their 2040 Unfunded Priorities list. Should CDOT end up with additional funding this November then maybe… well, stranger things have happened.

  • Darren Williams

    CDOT/City just replaced the bridges there a couple years ago. You and I paid for those bridges, so they have to stay. But the loops and right turn ramps can be removed, and a connector road between Federal on top and Colfax on the bottom can be constructed in the Southeast Quadrant.

    • neroden

      That would actually be an improvement. Rather than crossing one giant intersection, pedestrians would only have to cross the “connector road”, and only if they were walking on one side of the street.

  • An at-grade intersection, are you high? How far would traffic be backed-up in rush hour and how many accidents would be caused? In afternoon rush hour your great idea would back southbound I-25 up all the way to Auraria Parkway and all the way across 6th Ave to Kalamath. In the morning traffic would back-up all the way past Sheridan. Is that what you would rather have, a bunch of rush hour traffic trying to force its way through local neighborhoods in order to avoid the jam-up?

    I could see a Diverging Diamond interchange here however which would take-up a lot less side to side room but the bus ramp would have to be redesigned too.

    http://www.divergingdiamond.com/resources/_wsb_392x357_I-44+-+SR+13+DDI.jpg

    Here is a bit more information if you are interested: There are already two Diverging Diamond interchanges in Colorado. The closest one to downtown Denver is at US 36 and McCaslin Blvd in Louisville if you want to go and look.

    http://www.divergingdiamond.com/

    • Considerably more-expensive but friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians would be something similar to this interchange of Woodward Ave and Eight Mile Rd in Detroit, a 1960s design which handled 240,000 vehicles daily in the 1970s. In the case of Federal likely only 4 lanes would be required over the top with turning functions from the middle-level, while 6th Ave traffic would use the lower level.

      Click on the link below

      https://www.google.com/maps/@42.4441825,-83.1250799,289a,20y,41.61t/data=!3m1!1e3

      • Considerably more-expensive but friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians would be something similar to the interchange of Woodward Ave and Eight Mile Rd in Detroit, a 1960s design which handled 240,000 vehicles daily in the 1970s. In the case of Federal likely only 4 lanes would be required over the top with turning functions from the middle-level, while Colfax traffic would use the lower level.

    • Ben Schumacher

      Would it be insane? This from the article: “There’s not even a traffic-related justification for a piece of highway infrastructure in this location. The cloverleaf carries about 8,000 fewer vehicles each weekday than the at-grade intersection of Colfax and Colorado Boulevard, according to Denver Public Works.”

      Colfax and Colorado doesn’t have anything special to make it work. It isn’t as fun as a diverging diamond, which I’m a big fan of, but just because it has a cloverleaf now doesn’t mean that changing it to an at-grade intersection will create a traffic nightmare.

      • Obviously you are forgetting about stadium events such as the eight Denver Bronco home games every season, plus the soccer team home games, plus other events there such as concerts or even Cinco-de-Mayo. I see you want at-least one-quarter of the stadium parking lots too, likely plus those south of Colfax.

        Now the intersection of Colorado and Colfax has several other east-west arteries right next to it, such as 13th/14th Avenues and 17th/18th Avenues to take volume away from Colfax. What major adjacent avenues take volume away from Colfax at Federal?

        Perhaps you would prefer that the Broncos relocate to the suburbs as other pro teams have done after their presence in inner-city neighborhoods has caused too much local resentment?

  • Chris

    I live just a few blocks from the clover leaf and attended the meeting yesterday. The organizers did a great job and I’m excited to help out in the block party demonstration this Summer. West Colfax is a commercial main street with surrounding urban neighborhoods, and should not be an expressway for moving traffic dangerously fast from the suburbs to downtown. The nearby 6th Ave Expressway and W Light Rail are built for that purpose.

    The area has good bike and transit options and will thrive by encouraging more walkability to local businesses. Not to mention 29 acres could be put to use adding transit oriented housing, which our city needs greatly.

  • Walter Crunch

    Cdot completely replaced the bridges without adding connections for people? Say it ain’t so.

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