DPW Moves Forward With Making Quebec Street a Wide, Dangerous Stroad Instead of Prioritizing People Over Cars

The cost to taxpayers is sketchy, and there's plenty of time to stop the project.

The dirtwalk on Quebec Street. Photo: David Sachs
The dirtwalk on Quebec Street. Photo: David Sachs

Denver Public Works is dusting off its antiquated plan to cut into people’s front yards and widen Quebec Street by two lanes in order to save a few minutes for rush-hour drivers — many of whom flood the city from I-70 in the morning and flee back to the freeway in the afternoon.

This summer, DPW will begin studying how more lanes for more cars will affect the surrounding neighborhoods and the environment. The federal government pitched in $11.5 million for this stroad, so it requires this step before construction begins.

DPW has justified the widening by promising congestion relief for cars and by dangling the carrot of basic, first-world infrastructure — sidewalks and curb ramps to serve RTD riders and everyone else. (People on bikes won’t get any space on the rebuilt thoroughfare, but DPW threw a bone — a bike lane four blocks out of the way on Syracuse Street.)

Many parts of Quebec are impossible to walk safely, let alone navigate in a wheelchair, because dirt, mud, and grass are where sidewalks should be. The goat trails butt right up against traffic. So why is DPW trying to scrounge up an exorbitant amount of money to widen a street for cars before prioritizing more vulnerable users of the street?

Exactly how much the project will cost is unclear. Though ABC7 reported earlier this week that the project will cost $23 million, that’s just a starting point, DPW spokesperson Nancy Kuhn told Streetsblog. The widening, from 13th Avenue to 26th Avenue, actually totals $41 million, according to a recent project description for Denver’s bond funding process [PDF]. (The project did not make the shortlist.)

Asked about the $18 million discrepancy, Kuhn said the project’s cost could increase by 78 percent.

“We are continually assessing cost trends, given our growing economy,” Kuhn stated in an email. “We made the bond request, anticipating cost increases, should current trends continue.”

According to city documents [PDF], DPW actually wants to widen Quebec for 20 blocks — all the way from 6th Avenue to 26th Avenue. But apparently the extra cushion has nothing to with that portion of the project.

The current Quebec proposal is boilerplate 20th century transportation planning, which prioritizes people in cars over everyone else. Here are some more specs:

  • On some blocks, the street will go from 29 feet wide to 48 feet wide, making crossing distances longer and more dangerous. Some intersections will be five lanes wide, counting turn lanes.
  • DPW will have to acquire at least parts of 65 private properties in the residential neighborhood.
  • DPW considered keeping the two-lane configuration and adding turn lanes at intersections, but found the four-lane configuration would save drivers a little more than a minute on average. So.

There are way better ideas for this project — and a lot of time to stop it or change its trajectory. Kuhn said DPW is “a few years away” from a final design. The department will hold three public meetings on the project during the federal review process. They aren’t scheduled yet, but the first one will probably be in September, so stay tuned.