DPW Moves Ahead With Plan to Turn Broadway Into a Surface Highway

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This section of Broadway will supposedly “balance” cars and people when it’s completed. Image: City and County of Denver

Denver Public Works is moving ahead with plans to turn streets near the I-25 and Broadway RTD station into wide open speedways, despite the city’s intent to transform the area into a walkable neighborhood. At some locations, DPW will create streets more than 100 feet wide.

Construction on the street widenings is slated to start next year, officials said Wednesday, and the city is currently reviewing bids. Ironically, officials made the announcement at a meeting to gain feedback on a separate plan to make the area a walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly district. That plan seeks to address a long-standing problem — the area is fractured by wide, high-speed streets. So naturally, DPW will create more.

Near the intersection with Mississippi, for instance, DPW wants to blow out the roadbed on Broadway to 110 feet wide, with nine moving lanes and a parking lane. “I think that there is a balance of people looking at that intersection that want it and some that don’t,” said City Councilman Jolon Clark. “The project is underway and they’ll be digging dirt on that in the first half of 2016.”

Here’s the breakdown of what DPW will do.

  • Broadway from Mississippi to Tennessee: Five lanes will become nine, including three turn lanes and a parking lane.
  • Broadway from Mississippi to Arizona: Four travel lanes will become five through lanes, two turn lanes, and a parking lane.
  • Broadway from Tennessee to Kentucky: A left-turn lane will be added to the existing six lanes, and parking lanes will be added on each side of the street.
  • Mississippi Avenue from Sherman to Acoma: Two turn lanes will be added to the existing four travel lanes. One section will get a new row of parking.

Clark defended the widening because it will also include wider sidewalks where cycling is allowed. “I would love to, in my own little world, say no more lanes for cars and only things for bikes and pedestrians, but there has to be a balance because there are gonna be a lot of new people here,” he said.

On some sections, the shared path will only be 10 feet wide. In other words, car storage gets 11 feet of street width, while people walking and biking share 10 feet. Does that sound like balance?

Assuming that more space for every type of transportation will make a better street is not how streets work in practice. These street designs are fundamentally at odds with the vision of a walkable neighborhood the city is putting forward for the station area. Nearly all travel lanes (and even some parking lanes) will be an unnecessary 11 feet wide. Traffic will flow at potentially fatal speeds, and high rates of pedestrian injuries and fatalities will be baked in to the street. Good luck crossing these intersections if you happen to be elderly or infirm or a parent walking with a young child.

One of the most frustrating things about this project is that the city seems to know it’s a bad design. The I-25 and Broadway Station Area Plan even recommends curbing the negative effects of DPW’s street designs with fixes like pedestrian refuge zones and bulb-outs to shorten pedestrian crossings. Those would make a difference, but they’re no substitute for avoiding the road widenings in the first place.

Planning began on this project eight years ago, but just recently received funding. It’s moving forward — not because it’s a good design, but because of a bad process.

This article was changed at 4:18 p.m. to account for the fact that the intersection at Tennessee and Broadway will be 99 feet wide because of bulb-outs planned there.

  • Will Toor

    This is pretty tragic. There is just no way to create people oriented streets with 9 lanes of traffic.

    • neroden

      There is no way to make a decent street with 9 lanes of motor vehicle traffic at all. You can’t even make a decent expressway with that many lanes.

      Face it: if you’re considering that many lanes for cars, you should have built a rail line, because it’s the only way to clear congestion on that scale.

  • rorojo

    They will probably put a place for pedestrians to take refuge in the median 50 feet across the 100 foot street and call it a walking friendly design.

  • JoeSzusz

    I’ve just sent letters to my Councilman, as well as the Councilwomen at large, please do the same: https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-city-council/council-members.html

  • garbanzito

    it’s important to be accurate; see the annotations i have made on the attached diagram and note:

    at the Mississippi crossing, the parking lane on the east is replaced by a bulb-out, and one center turn lane is “reserved” (which makes it feasible to use as a pedestrian refuge), so while i agree it is wide and insulting to walkability, it is 99 feet, not 110

    and at Tennessee, there are bulb-outs on both sides of Broadway, and the crossing is seven lanes, or 77 feet

    instead of opposing the plan outright, my strategy is to assume it will be built and work to get the city to acknowledge its flaws; what this could enable:

    1) do quick fixes within the plan prior to construction: narrow the car lanes to gain some working room, use this to for one or more of the following: a) make a wider “multi-use path”, b) make crossing distances slightly shorter, c) design refuges into the center of all intersections … narrower lanes will also calm traffic somewhat; additionally, make the “reserved” turning lane at Mississippi a large refuge, and consider removing a parking lane in favor of a a cycle track

    2) do a “Hubble” — assemble a team for an ambitious mission to repair the “blurry vision” soon after construction is complete; potentially within a few years from completion, a revised streetscape could be built within its footprint

    • David Sachs

      I agree, it is important to be accurate. I did not report that any crossing will be 110 feet wide. I wrote that the street would be more than 100 feet wide at points, and that Broadway will be blown out to 110 feet. This is important because wide streets contribute to higher speeds.

      I see your point on the bulb-outs at Tennessee, though overall that does little to change the character of this street design.

      • garbanzito

        perhaps you intended it differently, but i’m the not only person who will read “at the intersection with Mississippi” as the pedestrian crossing

        i agree about speeds; i reserve judgment on how much the bulb-outs matter; my hope is they will calm traffic as well as shorten the pedestrian crossings

  • John Riecke

    Sad to see Denver’s willing to sacrifice its liveability to serve the purpose of commuters. They don’t seem to realize that the increased taxes from a truly walkable city will greatly outweigh the taxes generated by cars speeding through twice a day.

  • Walter Crunch

    Where is the mayor on this? What a complete disaster.

  • Ian Gassman

    This seems like a smart way to clear hellish congestion at that intersection. Clearly people complaining on here don’t commute to or from South Denver. Pedestrians will still have plenty of room to walk and why would be people be biking on the streets anyway? It’s illegal to do so.

    • Daniel

      Umm no.

      “Any person riding a bicycle shall ride in the right-hand lane.”

      Colorado Revised Statues 42-4-1412

    • Charles Buscemi

      wrong. Biking on the streets is entirely legal.

    • surly trucker

      Hey Ian, I commute every day from Englewood to downtown, on my bike, and it’s awesome! You should try it! 🙂

      • Ian Gassman

        I usually commute like that in the summer, but I use Logan instead of Broadway because that entire I-25 intersection is just too congested and busy. I think expanding the traffic lanes might clear that up.

        • neroden

          It won’t. Widening roads beyond roughly four to six lanes total always makes things worse.

          At that point, you’ve simply exceeded the capacity of automobile roads, and you have to try something completely different like train tracks.

  • Roads_Wide_Open

    Pretty interesting that the ones who complain, don’t drive this segment. To facilitate proper movement, these improvements are needed. Denver’s motto is to move more people through congested locations. This will do it; in cars, buses, bike, and on foot.

    • Anthony

      I don’t know about that, I’ve driven the area at rush hour and I’ve also walked the area during rush hour. It’s much more comfortable to drive than it is to walk there. I’m in the “enthused and confident” segment of people when I’m on a bike, and I’d rather bike on Colfax than this segment of Broadway.
      Widening this road does nothing to impact long term congestion through the corridor and serves to make it more dangerous for all users. Increasing vehicle capacity is almost never the answer to any question one could be asking.

      • Anthony

        To be clear, this is an indictment of Broadway rather than a praise of Colfax.

    • rorojo

      Why should the preferences of people in cars that drive through twice a day during rush hour get priority over the residents who actually live in this growing neighborhood? Most people prefer for where they live, walk to errands, and spend their free time to be designed for their quality of life.

    • Walter Crunch

      How exactly, road troll, do you know that none actually drive this?

      Go to LA where it’s a right wing wet dream of roads. Traffic sucks all the time with no modal choices.