Deadly Speeds on Urban Federal Blvd Aren’t Even Fit for Rural Highways. That Can Change.

Federal Boulevard. Image: WalkDenver
Federal Boulevard. Image: WalkDenver
This column is part of Streetsblog Denver’s Summer Reader Takeover, where we give you a platform to talk urban transportation. The author’s views don’t necessarily reflect those of Streetsblog Denver.

If you’ve ever driven on a rural state highway, you’ve noticed that drivers are required to decrease their speed when approaching a town, from 65 mph down to as low as 20. This reduction is necessary for pedestrian safety, as many state highways pass directly through small town centers and local business loops.

Not so on State Highway 287, known in Denver as Federal Boulevard, the city’s deadliest street.

On this particular highway, a broad, car-centric design encourages drivers to travel consistently above 50 mph, despite the fact that vehicles are traveling within a densely populated area, mere feet from schools, restaurants, recreation centers, veterans’ housing, health centers, a stadium… I could go on. No significant speed reduction is required despite thousands of pedestrians.

On Federal, the onus is on human beings of all ages and abilities to cross several lanes of high-speed traffic on a street that’s inherently unsafe for them to do so. Sadly and predictably, many pedestrians cannot successfully navigate this dangerous environment, and since 2017, there have been eight pedestrian fatalities on Federal/State Highway 287.

It is important to note the thoroughfare’s two names, because it points to the difficulty in improving this dire situation. The City and County of Denver is responsible for some maintenance, but is limited by state laws and (inadequate) state funding. Changes to Federal require cooperation between the dueling bureaucracies of Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

We must hold them both accountable for the thoroughfare’s negligent, deadly design.

How can you help? As a voter, you can influence change on two levels:
On a local level, encourage your Denver City Council representatives and Mayor Hancock tocontinue funding safety improvements on Federal through the annual budget, capital improvement funding, and bond funding. Contributions and support of local safety initiatives, such as Vision Zero, will help us realize our goal of fewer injuries on our roadways.

If rural Coloradans can count on CDOT and local governments to keep their pedestrians safe, Denverites should be able to do the same.

  • TakeFive

    The Good News is that while listening to Mayor Hancock’s State of the City address he specifically mentioned Federal along with Colfax when discussing better mobility/transit options for Denver.

    The Bad News is it’s such a slow slog in trying to get anything done. Colfax (BRT) improvements have already been years in the making. At least $55 million was a part of the Elevate Denver Bonds.

    • red123

      The mayor does a lot of talking. He does little acting. He has been Mayor for almost 8 years and all his talking points are trending in the wrong direction. Single occupancy vehicle use, traffic fatalities, affordable housing. It’s nice that he likes to talk about these things. Maybe he should implement some strategies to fix them.

      • TakeFive

        So you’re saying the Mayor is a politician?

  • MT

    The comparison to highways through small towns is brilliant.

  • TakeFive

    Right on cue:

    Tonight, Denver Public Works crews begin work to transform Federal Boulevard between Fifth Avenue and Holden Place from a pedestrian nightmare into a safer, prettier and more accessible strip.

    The project has been 10 years in the making, and will include new curbs and gutters, a landscaped and treelined median, upgraded crossing signals and revamped sidewalks.



Thursday’s Headlines

Cars don’t have to press a button to cross the street, so why should pedestrians? CDOT prioritizes cars over bikes on the collapsed segment of U.S. 36. The Colorado Rockies ban scooter riding near Coors Field during games. More headlines ...