DPW Insists on Making Quebec Street Wider and More Dangerous

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 2.23.18 PM
Image: DPW
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Image: DPW

The Department of Public Works is pushing for yet another street widening that will lead to more traffic injuries. This one is on Quebec Street between 13th and 26th avenues in Stapleton. The reason? To save drivers a few minutes during rush hour.

With the exception of a few blocks, this section of Quebec Street is currently two lanes wide. DPW has decided to turn the 1.2-mile stretch into a four-lane chasm through a residential neighborhood of northeast Denver with five schools in the vicinity. It’ll be five lanes at intersections.

On some blocks the street will go from 29 feet wide to 48 feet wide.

“Once again we’re disappointed that Denver is not following its own strategic transportation plan and instead widening roads,” said Jill Locantore of WalkDenver. “I think what we would like to see the city do is improve the safety and multimodal nature of the street without expanding the width of the street.”

DPW considered an option that would keep Quebec at two lanes, but even that called for blowing out the road to four lanes near intersections. In a design flourish that predestined the two-lane option to fail, drivers would have had to merge back to one lane after each intersection. DPW rejected the two-lane design because it is “less intuitive for vehicles/transit and pedestrians and introduces more opportunities for crashes or conflicts, which would only exacerbate congestion issues,” Principal Transportation Planner Cindy Patton said in an email.

DPW created this chart to convey its rationale for the full scope of the project, which stretches from 6th Avenue to 26th Avenue. (The city doesn’t have funding for all two miles yet.) The agency claims that a four-lane road — known in some quarters as a Four Lane Death Road — will be safer than other options, but the core rationale is that the wider street will carry more traffic:

The pros and cons of a 2-lane and 4-lane reconfiguration, according to Public Works. This chart was created for the orignial scope of the project, which stretched from 6th Avenue to 26th Avenue. Image: DPW
The pros and cons of a two-lane and four-lane reconfiguration, according to Public Works. Image: DPW

Keep in mind this road expansion is taking place near a neighborhood that has already failed to deliver on its initial promise as a modern model of complete streets.

Of course, the city would have you believe that widening Quebec will be doing a great service for pedestrians. After all, the road expansion comes complete with sidewalks on each side! As it stands, Quebec’s sidewalks are often just thin strips of concrete — if they exist at all.

There’s more. To make room for wider roads, the city will have to buy up space from private residents. That won’t happen until after the design and environmental impact processes begin early next year. In the meantime there will be a public process, so there’s still time to influence the project.

Without changing the four-lane configuration, the Quebec project is more proof that despite all the talk from Mayor Hancock about Denver modernizing to work for walking and biking, the city remains mired in a 1950s approach to streets.

  • JerryG

    Just a couple of slight corrections. Most of the proposed changes occur in the East Colfax and Park Hill East neighborhoods. Quebec is already 2 lanes each direction north of 23rd Ave and between Montview and 23rd it is 2 lanes southbound and 1 lane northbound. Keep up the great dialog!

  • USAproud

    I don’t think DPW “insists” on making the street more dangerous. Kind of opinionated article.

  • John

    Quebec is a potholed mess. It definitely needs new asphalt, but not like this!!

  • Pingback: Here Are Some Better Ideas For Quebec Street Than DPW’s Widening Plan | Streetsblog Denver()

  • Rebekah Brock

    I think Quebec needs that expansion. Despite Denver’s best attempts at mass transit, the reality is that most people have cars and need to get somewhere. With thousands of people in Stapleton, Quebec is a arterial street and it fails in moving traffic in that area.

  • spr8364

    I’m very excited to finally see this much needed project get going. If you want to ride a bike, take Syracuse. That is the street that I will stop driving on once Quebec is widened.

  • neroden

    A five-lane death road is actually more dangerous than a four-lane death road… but yeah, both designs are really unacceptable.

    Three lanes would be correct.

  • Rob

    I cant wait to see this project start!!

  • Frustrated Quebec driver

    What planet do you live on? This city is so far behind in keeping up with the number of cars on its streets, let alone getting more people out of cars, it is an embarrassment. Yes, Quebec needs to be widened. It should have been widened 20 years ago. My question is why don’t large businesses such as Johnson and Wales University not complain LOUDER so this can happen sooner. I can’t even imagine people coming to visit this university from out of town and THAT’S the first thing they see, a crappy under capacity street. I agree with spr8364, if I were riding a bike I’d much rather be on a side street…and we live on a grid, so its not like a less busy street wouldn’t be a better choice!

    • bt_linx

      I think the message is that a city can never “keep up with the cars on its streets.” If you widen a road, you induce an increase in the number of cars that will travel on the road. For example, look at the very first comment. A reader states clearly that when Quebec is widened, they will drive on it. This increase in traffic refills the capacity of the road and you are again left with a congested corridor that, because it is wider with more cars, is now MORE dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders. The way to reduce traffic congestion is to get people OUT of their cars by making it safe, efficient, and easy to walk, bike, and use transit. The problem is that this has to happen at a system-wide level. If Quebec is remade to be the only street in Denver with a transit-only BRT lane and a protected bike lane, the system doesn’t blink. But if EVERY arterial had a transit-only BRT lane, and EVERY street in Denver had a protected bike lane, Quebec might be a lot less congested…

  • Brendan Keeley

    For many years I said “imminent domain” those properties. But this may work, albeit living in those houses will really suck now. Agree this widening is late in arriving.

  • Dustin Craig Adkins

    As a Park Hill resident who drives Quebec daily, I can only assume that the author of this blog does not have a clue about the congestion here or the dangers of driving this stretch of road. I should add that I also bike and walk this area and I would love to have better sidewalks and crosswalks here, too. Between I70 and Parker Road Quebec goes from six lanes to four to two to four to two and then back to four again, a hodgepodge of crappy road configuration resulting from Stapleton Airport and Lowry Air Base era design. If it were up to me, the widening project would extend much further south.

    PLEASE widen this road. It can’t happen soon enough in my book.