DPW Wants to Ram a Wider MLK Boulevard Through Stapleton

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Image: DPW

With one hand, Mayor Michael Hancock and his Department of Public Works are making ambitious commitments to end traffic deaths, but with the other, they’re still redesigning streets in a way that will increase the risk of people getting killed. The latest case in point: Public Works plans to widen Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard by two lanes, creating more dangerous conditions in a growing neighborhood.

The $15 million project will extend and widen one mile of MLK in Stapleton, from Havana Street to Peoria Street, slicing through a residential area where new housing and retail are on the way.

Public Works hosted a meeting on the project Thursday. Engineers assured residents that they gave prairie dogs due heed when studying the project’s effects on the neighborhood [PDF]. But what about increased traffic and higher motor vehicle speeds that could kill human beings?

Project planners admit in their own analysis that the widening will cause more particulate emissions and “increased speeds” [PDF]. The city is building it anyway.

The redesign calls for lanes as wide as 12 or 13 feet. Why are the lanes going to be that wide, when research shows that 10-foot-wide lanes are safer? “Standards” dictated by the fire department, said Dennis Arbogast, a consultant with AECOM. “We can’t get any skinnier than that,” Arbogast said. “Believe me, we’ve tried.”

So far, Stapleton has failed to live up to its billing as a pedestrian paradise. Widening a major street in the neighborhood won’t help. While the new project will come with 10-foot walking and biking paths on each side of MLK, those improvements could be built without adding a car lane in both directions.

Like other antiquated projects, the MLK widening is lurching ahead because it now has funding. Since the project was conceived in 2010, Denver has adopted new goals to make walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly streets — goals that are entirely at odds with widening MLK.

Even though the city has posted no planning documents for the project (Streetsblog got the environmental analysis in an email), construction could begin as soon as this summer unless Mayor Hancock intervenes.