Nailing Down the Details for the Brighton Boulevard Redesign

Brighton Boulevard will be redesigned in 2017, complete with what will probably be the city’s best bike lanes. The concept is clear: a lively street that is walkable, bikeable, and conducive to transit (though consultants insist Brighton has to cater to trucks as well).

Brighton is currently an industrial remnant in a fast-developing part of town. In addition to bike lanes, the overhauled street will have sidewalks, narrower lanes for motor vehicle traffic, and center medians. Those changes should be a big improvement, but the redesign still has plenty of serious kinks that need smoothing. Residents and planners debated and discussed them last night at a public meeting in RiNo.

Here’s what went down.

Excessive Speed Is a Big Problem

Residents said drivers flying down Brighton to and from I-70 will continue to threaten people walking and biking, even with the new design. The 35 mph speed limit on most of the corridor is often ignored, and advocates have called for a lower posted speed limit since the project’s inception.

“I guarantee you’re going to see an increase in traffic accidents and even fatalities along the Brighton corridor,” said Christoph Kheim, who runs the Forney Museum of Transportation on 43rd and Brighton. “I think we’re fooling ourselves. And I think you’re putting cyclists and pedestrians at risk by not considering lowering the speed limit.”

The consultants who ran the meeting don’t have control over the speed limit, said Andy Mountain of the firm GBSM. They had brought the advocates’ idea for a lower speed limit to the city earlier in the process, but Denver wasn’t interested in changing it, at least not yet.

“I think really their belief is let’s see what the project itself does, and then take the next step,” Mountain said.

Slimming Down the Street

Mountain was referring to narrower traffic lanes planned for Brighton, which will send drivers visual cues to slow down. Continuous tree-lined sidewalks, the bike lane, and a center median on the southern stretch of the street will replace today’s curb-less speedway. Crosswalks with new traffic signals are coming to 35th, 33rd and 29th, and wider intersections will have pedestrian islands in the middle of the crosswalk.

“Right now there’s no friction out there today,” one consultant said. “There’s really very little pedestrian activity and bicycle activity, so it feels comfortable just to fly through there. But that should change.”

10-Foot Lanes, Not Nine-Foot Lanes

The design whittles Brighton’s four lanes down to 10 feet, but they probably won’t get any thinner, despite calls from residents and advocates for more city-appropriate nine-foot lanes. Designers said they considered it, but ultimately nixed the idea because of the volume of truck and bus traffic. Trucks comprise 10 to 15 percent of Brighton Boulevard’s traffic, they said, while a typical city street sees about 2 percent.

But as the area gets denser and the types of businesses change, won’t truck traffic decrease? It’s possible, Mountain said, but RTD’s nearby bus depot, the Pepsi warehouse, and Great Divide’s new beer facility aren’t going anywhere.

Well-Designed Protected Bike Lanes

Consultants and the city have yet to nail down all the design details for the protected bike lanes that will run along both sides of the street, but they should be stellar. The designers are leaning toward a bike lane raised six inches above the street with a hard-edged curb that will be parking-protected where parking is allowed. Based on feedback from last night, they’ll also consider putting the bike lanes at street level, with a curb buffer, maybe with bollards as a vertical separator.

Conflicts Between Pedestrians and Bike Riders

How will pedestrians cross the bike lane to board a bus? Designers will consider a bus island, like the one on 18th and Wazee, but the question remains unanswered.  

Comments from the meeting will inform the final design, due toward the end of the year, presenters said. Construction will probably begin early in 2016 and finish up sometime in 2017.

This post was edited to add 33rd Avenue as an intersection that will receive a new signal.