No, Making Quebec Street More Like a Highway Is Not a Good Idea

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Making Quebec Street four lanes wide will supposedly “mitigate congestion” for 26 years, according to Public Works, but all it will really do is funnel more cars into Denver, making traffic worse and Quebec Street more dangerous. Image: DPW

Greater Park Hill published a rant from Dennis Royer today in which the former Denver Public Works traffic engineer picked apart the Quebec Street widening, but not for the right reasons.

If DPW gets its way, Quebec will go from two lanes to four, with highway-sized lanes between 6th and 26th Avenue. That’s not enough for Royer, who laments the fact that Quebec never became the highway it was destined to be:

They say it will cost $24 million to “reconfigure” Quebec, from 26th to 13th avenues. But, this plan won’t solve the corridor congestion problem, since it still leaves two-lane cross sections between 13th Avenue and Severn, and at Alameda and Leetsdale.

Aha, so if you widen even more of Quebec, that will finally eliminate congestion once and for all. Problem solved!

Except for the pesky fact that adding more car lanes leads more people to drive, and before you know it the road is filled up with cars again.

Then there’s the matter of public safety. Royer wants Denver to have more roads like Colorado Boulevard and Havana Street. “Colorado Boulevard and Havana Street are three and a half miles apart,” he writes. “Typically, you would find at least two-, four- or six-lane arterials in that distance, but not in Denver.” But those are also some of the city’s most dangerous streets. Denver will never cut down on traffic fatalities if it starts turning more streets into high-speed arterials.

“Shouldn’t we get a desirable design for that level of traffic volumes and neighborhood impact? Don’t the East Denver neighborhoods deserve a better roadway after suffering years of political inaction and traffic congestion?” asks Royer.

East Denver deserves better streets, yes, but creating a new surface-level highway isn’t the way to deliver.

Let’s go back to DPW’s stated goals for the Quebec project: “to increase north-south person trip capacity on Quebec… in a manner that enhances the overall transportation system’s ability to improve multi-modal access/safety, mobility, and connectivity.”

There’s nothing wrong with these goals, but as Streetsblog suggested in June, carving out more room for single occupancy vehicles isn’t a good way go about it. To achieve its goals, DPW needs to design Quebec less like a highway, and more like a city street where people can safely get around without driving.