#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:

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.