Get Ready for a Much Better Brighton Boulevard

Mayor Michael Hancock breaks ground on a major redesign of Brighton Boulevard on Thursday. Photo: David Sachs

Mayor Michael Hancock got his hands a little dirty Thursday in River North when he fiddled with some levers on a bulldozer that, eventually, dug up the ceremonial dirt for a major transformation of Brighton Boulevard.

“I travel Brighton Boulevard every day,” Hancock said. “And I have not been shy about the fact that I thought this was the ugliest gateway to downtown anywhere in the country… and we had to find a way to do better.”

It’s not only ugly, it’s unsafe. This project is a big deal for people who walk, bike, and use transit on the street — and for people who would like to but are terrified. Right now Brighton is full of dirt paths for pedestrians alongside speeding freight trucks and extremely unsafe bus stops that don’t exactly confer dignity. Biking on Brighton is a nonstarter for most people.

Here’s how the street will look when all is said and done (sometime next year, no less, according to city officials). The redesign runs from 29th to 44th streets in RiNo:

In list form, that translates to:

  • 2.6 miles of sidewalks where none existed before, with pedestrian refuges at wider intersections
  • A 2.6-mile raised bike lane, protected by parked cars for about 25 percent of its length, with turn boxes at intersections
  • A pedestrian-only crossing at 33rd Street with a pedestrian hybrid signal to direct drivers to stop for people crossing
  • More than 100 benches
  • New traffic signals at 29th and 35th streets (29th is in place and will be upgraded with bike signals)
  • Narrower, 10-foot lanes to reduce dangerous speeding
  • More than 400 trees that will narrow the street visually and calm traffic
  • 300 LED pedestrian streetlights
  • More than 30 bike racks
  • Better drainage to reduce flooding
  • 80 on-street parking spaces

If there’s a criticism of this project it’s that the intersections still allow for fast, dangerous turning movements. While an improvement on the status quo, some intersections prioritize car traffic with wide corners that allow drivers to handle turns at speeds that will jeopardize people crossing the street on foot. Planners said Brighton has to cater to vehicles with large turning radii because its neighbors include a Pepsi warehouse, an RTD bus depot, and a Great Divide distribution facility.

Overall, the Brighton Boulevard redesign represents a financial commitment by Hancock to prioritize people walking, biking, and transit users. It takes money to improve streets, and Hancock has dedicated about $26 million to this one. The RiNo General Improvement District contributed $3 million.

On Thursday, Hancock called the Brighton Boulevard redesign “catalytic,” “collaborative,” and a “no-brainer.”