#StreetFail: Broadway and Mississippi Road Expansions Put Pedestrians Last

People walking to the I-25 and Broadway RTD station or the very busy 0 bus have to dodge several lanes of high-speed traffic.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Last summer, Denver Public Works wrapped up the widening of Broadway and Mississippi Avenue. It always defied belief that well into the 21st Century, Denver planned to expand roads near the I-25 and Broadway RTD station to highway dimensions. I recently toured this concrete monstrosity on foot and can confirm that it’s as bad as anticipated.

To recap, DPW and the Colorado Department of Transportation began planning this project more than a decade ago. At the time, they wanted to widen these roads to pump more cars and trucks onto Broadway and the freeway. Now this $35 million road widening project has created a pedestrian debacle as a residential neighborhood rises near the I-25 and Broadway RTD station.

Broadway from Mississippi to Arizona Avenue went from five lanes to seven, and Mississippi from Sherman Street to Acoma Street is now six lanes, up from five. A one-block section of Broadway is now eight lanes wide instead of six, including the worst pedestrian crossing of them all — a nine-lane abomination at Mississippi.

While there are paths for walking and biking near the interchange, they’re just lipstick on a pig. All the extra traffic lanes and high-speed turns undermine any attempt to make this a walkable, bikeable street network.

Trucks whiz by with a 9-lane section of Broadway and high-density homes in the background. Photo: David Sachs
Trucks whiz by a nine-lane section of Broadway near hundreds of apartments. Photo: David Sachs

To cross Broadway, people need to press a beg button to trigger a walk signal. I tried one out, and one minute and 45 seconds after I pushed it, the brand new signals finally allowed me to cross. Now imagine doing that when you’re in a hurry to catch your train or the 0 bus.

By now, DPW recognizes this is a mistake. The city is adding automatic walk phases on Federal Boulevard because officials know that traffic signals should treat people on foot as a given. If the city is retrofitting old signals to get rid of beg buttons, why aren’t new signals outfitted the same way?

The pedestrian markings are lacking too. At the ramps off Broadway for I-25, there are no marked crosswalks, despite the need for drivers to be extra attentive at these transitions to the highway:

Drivers speed onto I-25 here, but there's nothing to indicate to them that people cross here. Photo: David Sachs
Drivers speed onto I-25 here, where there is no crosswalk to indicate that people cross this intersection on foot. Photo: David Sachs

On Ohio Avenue, which leads right to the RTD station, there’s still no sidewalk on one side of the street:

IMG_4707
Photo: David Sachs

In a concession to the idea that streets should work for people who don’t drive, there’s a much wider sidewalk on the west side of Broadway and the south side of Mississippi that DPW calls a “multi-use path” aimed at giving people biking a safer place to ride. It’s fine if you’re biking between the station and the Platte River Trail. But if you’re going anywhere else, you have to risk your neck to access it.

It’s a classic case of Denver doing the wrong thing slightly better.

  • MT

    I wonder if some of that extra width could be used for bus stops/ bus lanes. Maybe a way to make better use of it since they went ahead and paved it already.

    • MT

      I’d also thought it would be nice if the 0 could stop on Broadway instead of turning in to the station, saving people not transferring several minutes.
      A nice, wide walkway between Broadway and the train with room for amenities would make transferring easy and comfortable.
      Of course, that wouldn’t work well for Northbound since you’d have to cross Broadway, and they’ve made that just about impossible.

  • deadindenver

    This intersection is near me and the rebuild for pedestrians is abysmal. District council person Jolon Clark be ashamed of himself for letting this abomination come to pass. These kind of opportunities for making the streets safer are far and few between. He’s all about virtual signaling but not doing. Pedestrian Islands should have been built in the middle of Broadway as that’s a long way to cross Broadway for someone using a walker or just plain slow. The design promotes fast turning from southbound Broadway to west bound Mississippi so if you crossing Mississippi from north to south watch your back. I’m guessing folks in the Apartment complex at the Southwest corner literally get in there cars to go to Sprouts Market even though it’s only a block away to avoid walking across this intersection. Denver Vision Zero is vision dead.

    • garbanzito

      this project was pretty well set in stone before Clark was in office, and involved the state and feds as well as the city; very hard to stop that machine; i sat on the NEPA committee for this project from 2005 to 2007 and we (neighborhood reps) put a lot of effort into pushing back against the broad pedestrian crossings, but there was a big effort but the (then) developers and transportation wonks put up against us “unrealistic” neighborhood types; in the end the most the process allowed for was for the neighborhoods to officially register their concern about the pedestrian aspects of the record of decision

  • TakeFive

    I am jacked by the Broadway Station site vision: http://www.broadwaystation.com/site-vision.html

    Also, So Broadway is part of my Urban Signature Line for light rail from the Civic Center Station down So Broadway to the Broadway/I-25 station as well as along Speer Blvd through Cherry Creek.

    http://www.broadwaystation.com/uploads/6/5/4/8/65480005/1-maketplace-3_orig.jpg

    • MT

      I have doubts about the liveliness of these visions if the surrounding streets (Broadway, Mississippi, and Santa Fe) aren’t easy to cross so people can get there in the first place.

      Please do build rail down Broadway and Speer please, thanks!

  • John Riecke

    Walked this section of Broadway just yesterday with family visiting from out of town, and I completely agree. Even Broadway south of here, where the street has a much friendlier design is rendered unpleasant by the noise of the traffic. We got on the #0 at the stop just north of Mississippi on Broadway and were yelling at each other to be heard. Didn’t feel like a part of a safe and welcoming transit system.

    Also, a quibble: Broadway and Mississippi are streets, not roads. Roads go places, streets are places. The problem with the redesign is that they were treated as roads rather than streets.

    • TakeFive

      Broadway from 29th St to Yale Ave is considered an Arterial street. Mississippi Ave from Federal to Logan St is also considered an arterial street. Other sections of Mississippi are classified as a collector street.

      So Broadway is especially busy between Colfax and Speer Blvd; also especially busy is the intersection of Broadway and I-25. If you want to get more people out of their cars then So Broadway and the Speer Blvd/Leetsdale Dr corridors need to have light rail.

      • deadindenver

        I don’t see light rail coming to south Broadway anytime soon since the C/D line already parallels it. An alternative to consider is changing the already designated bus lane to full on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Same for the Speer to Leetsdale corridor, it’s a tight fit for light rail but BRT might work along that route. Than with the new Broadway Station, I’d like to see a mini version of the Portland Tilikum Crossing bridge over Santa Fe/Platte river for Pedestrians, Bicycles and Public Transportation only, feed into the I-25/Broadway station from the west side say around West Tennessee street so they can avoid that Mississippi/Santa Fe/Broadway bicycle/pedestrian unfriendly intersections and congestion.

        • TakeFive

          That Tilikum Crossing bridge is very nice.

          I have trouble coping with the notion that densifying Denver does not deserve at least ONE urban light rail line. The most obvious corridor is from the Civic Center down Broadway, then along the Speer Blvd/Leetsdale corridor to the intersection of Parker Rd-Mississippi and the High Line Canal (bike) Trail. Extending light rail down Broadway to I-25 Station is a natural as much because it would give the new route/cars access to the rest of the system – think existing maintenance facility.

          • TakeFive

            When I consider that Phoenix has one nice 26-mile urban light rail route that generates weekday ridership ~50,000 that’s right up there with Portland. Then consider the Twin Cities new Green Line which generates weekday ridership at 40,500 which at only 11 miles is up there with many of the best on a per mile basis.

            RTD’s D&F lines have a weekday ridership of ~25,000 While Aurora’s popular H Line has ridership ~17,000. It goes downhill from there.

          • JZ71

            Frequent bus service / BRT is a much better solution in urban areas than wasting money on rail investments that would run less frequently. Light rail is an expensive box designed to move a lot of people over longer distances – urban areas require more fine-grained solutions for the shorter distances most riders are wanting to go.

          • TakeFive

            Funny story… I made much the same argument on a different (Phx) thread. The difference was I was promoting BRT and my motivation was to take the cost savings and do a complete green street makeover.

            exit2lef… was my antagonist and wouldn’t hear of it. He’s a prof planner and has ridden BRT in Boston and RapidRide in Seattle etc and he’d never choose BRT where ridership could justify light rail. Frequent service is different and for higher volume routes it’s fine but it can also be wasted $’s where the issue is one of first and last mile access. BRT was actually designed for routes with infrequent, well spaced stops. BRT that is no more than enhanced local service is only good for routes where light rail can’t be justified. Buses will always be a clunky, slow, unreliable pain in the ass. Denveright’s own transit surveys show everybody want to ride light rail; buses not so much.

          • JZ71

            Yes, people like to ride rail more than buses, but they sure don’t want to pay more! It boils down to the bottom line. For the same dollars, you can have fewer rail miles or more bus miles. And don’t discount frequency if your goal is to increase ridership / persuade people to use transit voluntarily. I guess my focus is on creating the best integrated system, not creating a small subset of premium routes, especially at the expense of generic, local bus routes.

          • TakeFive

            The trend I see is low ridership routes being lost in the shuffle to higher volume routes ie quantity or ‘coverage’ is losing out to quality. After four years of declining bus ridership people are looking for answers and budgets are tightening. The problem is attributed to various things but ride-hailing seems to be the biggest culprit. My D.C. blogger/friend (actually a Northern Virginia planner) predicts much the same.

          • John Riecke

            I think the biggest problem in adding rail beyond the cost is that Denverites won’t allow the density to support the ridership. Our rail “stations” are almost uniformly pathetic parking lots – nothing about them says “station” to me. Even a line down Broadway, which would be super cool, would work best if behind the street wall there were six blocks of 5–7 story buildings, but as we’ve seen, just adding a single five story building in an industrial area a block off Broadway encounters enormous opposition.

          • TakeFive

            I suspect you’re conflating issues? Suburban stations have primarily a first and last mile issue; solve that and density is less important. Nine MIle Station proves that.

            With respect to urban routes, Phx doesn’t have much density although it’s coming now that they have light rail; yet their ridership is strong. Broadway down to Speer has added a lot of density; and it’s the Broadway Speer/Leetsdale corridor that deserves light rail. Speer is adding lots of density. Point being Denver will continue to evolve; you can’t just plop down density everywhere even in boom times. It takes decades.

      • John Riecke

        Nope. Broadway is only an “arterial” because at some point someone arbitrarily decided to designate it as such. There is nothing inherent to the street except for its width that would make it “arterial”. The whole street classification sytem was designed for poorly-connected, car-oriented suburbs and should never have been instituted in a walkable and connected city. If we want to get people out of their cars we don’t need to spend billions on rail, instead we need to reject the car-centric framing of our streets and zone/build for people. Designate every street in Denver a “local” and design accordingly. Allow small mixed-use developments in neighborhoods and watch walkability and non-car trips soar.

        • TakeFive

          Fair points; well stated. I’ve come to understand the urban utopian orthodoxy. I see Denver as more of a hybrid city so I’ll let you youngins pursue that dream while I stand aside and watch. 🙂

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