Eyes on the Street: New Markings at 17th and Wynkoop Near Union Station

Wynkoop and 17th now (top) compared to last week (bottom). Top photo: David Sachs; bottom image: Google Maps

The intersection of 17th and Wynkoop is about to get much, much busier.

Three new RTD rail lines will start serving Union Station this year, including the A-Line to Denver International Airport, which opens April 22. That means thousands more people will pass through one of Lower Downtown’s busiest intersections on their way to and from the transit hub.

The streets around the station weren’t ready to handle the influx. Drivers often drop off passengers in the bike lanes and crosswalks, for example, causing conflicts.

So this week, Denver Public Works began implementing some changes at 17th and Wynkoop to improve conditions for biking and walking. These are low-cost tweaks that can be put down quickly. Community Planning and Development has floated more substantial changes, like turning Wynkoop into a pedestrian-priority street, for the future.

The project probably won’t be finished until Sunday, but you can already see the street changing. Here’s where we’re at right now:

Painted curb extensions are intended to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and get drivers to take turns more carefully. Photo: David Sachs

Painted and textured curb extensions, a.k.a. bulb-outs, on the intersection’s east corners expand space for pedestrians at key crossings and should make drivers turn more carefully. You can see a nearly finished bulb-out with the textured surface in the background. When the bulb-outs are complete, they’ll have plastic bollards separating them from traffic.

Public Works is also installing crosswalks that should be more visible to drivers. They’re painted burgundy, textured, and outlined in white. When the project is finished, all three crosswalks in the intersection will have this treatment.

Photo: David Sachs

The bike lanes here are often obstructed by motorists illegally using it as a passenger drop-off zone. So crews painted the bike lanes bright green in high-conflict areas to alert drivers not to park them, though paint along isn’t enough to deliver the message, as you can see in the above photo.

When the project is finished, the bike lane segment directly in front of the station will have plastic posts separating it from car traffic. Public Works hopes that will inhibit drivers from parking in the bike lane and from making dangerous U-turns.

Photo: David Sachs

At the northwest end of Wynkoop, Public Works replaced two car parking spots with 10 bike racks.

In addition, Public Works is installing signs on Speer, 20th, Park Avenue, and Auraria Parkway directing drivers to the “back” of Union Station — the Wewatta Street side — where vehicle drop-off and pick-up zones were always meant to be.

The number of people walking, biking, and driving around Union Station will change quite literally overnight next week when the A-Line opens. Stay tuned to see how these improvements play out.