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

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.43.20 AM
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.