Could Brighton Boulevard Become a Pedestrian Paradise?

By Jill Locantore, WalkDenver Policy and Program Director

WalkDenver is excited to participate in a working group that is advising the City of Denver on the design of Brighton Boulevard from 29th Street to 44th Street. Last April, the City released a plan [pdf] outlining a bold vision for transforming Brighton Boulevard into an engaging, connected, multimodal gateway. In November, City Council approved a 2015 budget that allocates $26 million for improvements along the corridor, which currently serves more as a “back door” into downtown. This funding will go a long way toward making the City’s vision a reality, and presents a unique opportunity to create a true multimodal street that sets a precedent for similar projects in the future. Redesigning Brighton Boulevard won’t be easy, however, and the proverbial devil is in the details.

Today, Brighton Boulevard is a harrowing place for pedestrians and bicyclists, which is to say, people. Most of the corridor has no sidewalks, no curb and gutter, no bicycle facilities, no streetscaping, and no tree canopy. The intrepid person who attempts to walk or bike to one of the enticing new developments or adaptive reuse projects along the Boulevard, such as The Source or Industry, is likely to encounter dirt and gravel, standing water (if it’s rained recently), cars parked willy-nilly on the shoulder of the roadway, and traffic flowing freely in and out of adjacent properties, without any clear driveways. On the bright side (pun intended), this almost complete lack of infrastructure means the Boulevard, in some sense, is a blank canvas on which the City can paint a new vision. Will the City seize this opportunity and transform Brighton into a true pedestrian paradise?

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Existing Brighton Boulevard streetscape. Photo credit: City & County of Denver

The City’s plan clearly states the redesigned roadway must accommodate all modes of travel—walking, biking, transit, and driving—as well as a tree lawn and “amenity zone” with public art and other streetscaping that creates “a consistent character and attractive gateway to downtown.” The challenge is fitting all of these elements within the available right-of-way, particularly when the City envisions that Brighton will remain “an important vehicular connector” and, therefore, must continue to have four, 11-foot-wide lanes. So, the working group is rolling up its sleeves and digging into the trade-offs associated with restricting left turns versus providing protected turn lanes, on-street bike lanes versus raised cycle tracks, continuous versus intermittent on-street parking, etc.

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Potential Brighton Boulevard streetscape. Photo credit: City & County of Denver

Here are a few of the issues that WalkDenver is particularly interested in:

  • Safely separating pedestrian and bicycle facilities, to minimize potential conflict
  • Ensuring a robust tree canopy and quality landscaping (rather than planting trees that are doomed to die due to inadequate access to water, air, or room to grow)
  • Innovative storm water collection facilities that capture moisture, support vegetation and create a “pedestrian-friendly micro-climate”
  • Enhancing safety and convenience for pedestrians crossing Brighton Boulevard, including minimizing the distance people must walk across the street and between safe crossings
  • Minimizing the impact of driveways (property access points) on continuity of sidewalks and pedestrian safety
  • Providing pedestrian-oriented wayfinding, particularly to the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks at 35th, the bridge over the Platte River at 31st, and the access point to the Platte River Trail at 29th
  • Street design that allows for outdoor cafes and a pedestrian-friendly streetscape
In addition to seeking guidance from the working group, the City will be hosting public meetings in the coming months to present and gather feedback on design concepts. Stay tuned for more information!

 

By | 2016-12-27T19:53:43+00:00 January 26, 2015|Categories: Advocacy, Infrastructure, Pedestrians, Urban Design, Walkability|Tags: |23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. mckillio January 26, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    I plan on watching this development very closely. I don’t think there is a better opportunity in Denver for a home run design than Brighton, this is a blank canvas that essentially has to be done from scratch so there should be no reason for this not to be a success. Things that I think are must haves are nothing wider than 10′ lanes, street parking, bike lanes (ideally protected but there probably won’t be room for it) neck downs at intersections, good lighting, trees, ideally a 25mph speed limit but nothing faster than 30mph (what is the speed limit in this stretch, 35? I know it changes quite a bit along Brighton) and of course good sidewalks.

    One of the issues that I’ve really started to notice around Denver that really hurts mobility is the amount of dead ends, this really hurts car traffic too. For instance, there are so few connections over the railroad tracks to connect Brighton with the rest of the RiNo area, there are no connections between 26th and 38th which is a big deal if you’re walking. Another area with this issue is Speer, 12th, 10th and 9th all dead end into it, forcing everyone to take other streets.

  2. Ryan January 26, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    A blank canvas is definitely an apt description. I’m actually quite surprised real estate developers and businesses in the area haven’t been clamoring more loudly for street improvements. Once Great Divide gets set up, I don’t think the city is going to have a choice anymore: a major facelift is in order.

    They’re going to need a way to connect that neighborhood with downtown, but also other area the River North district. That train track will certainly be interesting to build around.

  3. austin January 26, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    I think this is an awesome idea! I drive down Brighton Blvd all the time and it does look really unattractive. I’m happy to see that they’re thinking of making it a lot nicer.

  4. Tyler January 27, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    I love Brighton Boulevard. It is honestly one of my favorite streets in Denver, perhaps in part because it is a blank slate with incredible untapped potential. I think the development of the streetscape should be unique to the River North neighborhood and reflect the interesting industrial architecture of the buildings (i.e. The Source, Industry). I agree with many of the suggestions of WalkDenver as well as those of mckillio above. Four lanes of traffic is probably best considering the heavy use by cars on this section of Brighton Boulevard, considering the downtown connection to I-70. I would love to see on street parking AND cycle tracks but space in some sections of the street would be hard to make that happen (though I would prefer if they had to chose one or the other, they would nix the parking in favor of the cycle track). Wide sidewalks would obviously be a necessity. It would be interesting if they implemented a tree-lined median or something, giving the desired tree canopy, to make it a little more unique and park-like, perhaps similar to Logan Street between Virginia and Speer.

    While wayfinding for pedestrians to the rail and river crossings will certainly be needed, I think mckillio brings up the deeper issue, the lack of connectivity of this neighborhood to the neighborhoods adjacent across the railroad tracks and river. Broadway/Brighton and 38th Street are the only connections to the rest of downtown(for pedestrians and cars… so far), 31st Street and 38th Street are the only river crossings, and 38th Street/Washington and Brighton Boulevard are the only connections to the north. Considering the continued development of places north of the river (Taxi, Drive, etc.) and south of the tracks (Ballpark, Cole), and with the East Rail Line opening and the development it will bring, more rail and river crossings must be implemented.

    In addition to the improvements on Brighton Boulevard itself, the same or similar improvements should also be done on the side streets, and along the South Platte River itself, that truly connect the RiNo neighborhood with its namesake and make it a beautiful and desirable place to be in.

    I would also hope that the improvements to Brighton between 29th Street and 44th Street could extend north of I-70 to the new and improved National Western Center and into Elyria-Swansea to Riverside Cemetery. This, in addition to the demolition of the I-70 viaduct and subsequent lowering and widening, could really help to unite some long separated areas of central Denver.

    The opportunities here are endless, but they all definitely begin and end with the revitalization of Brighton Boulevard. Here’s to hoping the city gets this one right. I’m optimistic.

    • Nash January 27, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      The most important aspect about Brighton Blvd. to remember is that it is THE extension of North Broadway, the main traffic feeder into Downtown from the Northeast. It’s a commuter street, as well as an emerging neighborhood. And like it or not, the city must begin to re-imagine North Broadway, as a driving, trucking, transit, biking and walking corridor, as well.

      Very local neighborhood politics in and around the so-called Arapahoe Square area seem to have the city backing away from a grand plan for Denver’s biggest Downtown street. Might be better if the city just drops the “Arapahoe Square” name — which means nothing — and call the neighborhood what it actually is, and has always been: North Broadway. That returns the focus to the tremendous retail and high-density residential potential of the big corridor. And it gives every person in every transportation mode — including pedestrians — a sense of direction, as the northeast gateway to Downtown. Just like Speer is the Northwest gateway, Colfax the East and West Gateways, and South Broadway the main route from the south.

      So when you think of designing Brighton Boulevard, think North Broadway — which is what it functionally really is.

      • Ryan January 28, 2015 at 10:01 am

        You may not be implying this, but I think a re-branding of the street may be a necessary measure as this project goes forward. If it’s a connection to Broadway (and it literally is), then CALL it Broadway. It’s a street that winds through dozens of neighborhoods, all the way south past C-470. Why again does this stretch of road need to be called a different name in Denver proper?

        • UrbanZen January 28, 2015 at 4:40 pm

          Agreed, at least until I-70. Change the signs on the interstate, Brighton Blvd to the north, Broadway to the south. I mean Brighton is some dumpy town in north Adams County, not exactly the artsy, hipster chic identity the River North neighborhood is going for.

      • BoulderPatentGuy January 29, 2015 at 9:33 am

        I say this a bit in jest… changing the area/street name to North Broadway sounds like a great idea, until you realize that everyone and their brother will start calling the area NOBRO. Ugh.

        • Ken Schroeppel January 29, 2015 at 10:50 am

          This is true (people would start calling it NoBro). However, the convention in Denver is to not say or write “North” on street names. If there is no directional prefix present, then it is assumed to be “North”. Therefore, there’s no need to (nor do we now) refer to it as North Broadway. Just “Broadway” is good enough. However, the bigger problem is that there’s already a Broadway that runs from about 43rd Avenue north through Globeville. That would mean we’d have two different Broadways south of I-70. It would be quite confusing and the city (and probably the post office) wouldn’t go for it.

          However, I see no reason why Brighton Boulevard south of I-70 couldn’t be renamed something like River North Boulevard.

          • Tyler January 29, 2015 at 6:08 pm

            I’m not really in favor of renaming the street, to “North Broadway” or otherwise. I personally like the Brighton Boulevard name. It has been called Brighton Boulevard for quite some time, and that is what it should stay. Historically, Brighton Boulevard was the highway that went between Denver and Brighton (not just some “dumpy town,” by the way, it’s the seat of Adams County and a fast growing city at that) before Interstate 76 and U.S. Highway 85 largely replaced/bypassed it. That history should perhaps be incorporated into the redevelopment of Brighton Boulevard, not forgotten with a pointless name change. The Brighton Boulevard name is not what needs to be updated, it’s the streetscape that needs to be changed.

          • Ryan January 30, 2015 at 6:04 pm

            From a navigability standpoint, it’s really not pointless at all.

            In fact, it’s really silly for a major thoroughfare to change names right in the middle of a downtown area. Change Walnut through this stretch to Market too.

            And Ken, I don’t think a minor road in Globeville should be preventing a name change if that’s what is necessary. Change the name of THAT road for the post office.

            Lastly, no one calls the South Broadway neighborhood ‘SoBro’ — they call it South Broadway. By extension, I don’t think ‘NoBro’ will be an option. And anyway, the ‘RiNo’ marketing machine is well underway. I’m fairly confident the name will stick.

  5. Overload January 28, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Renovating Brighton Boulevard would have a bigger effect on the gentrification of the area than a light rail stop. Right now, you could say that there isn’t the residential and commercial development to warrant the improvements, but making the changes would spur change. A chicken or the egg argument.

    • Ryan January 28, 2015 at 10:12 am

      The residential and commercial development is coming fast and furiously.

      The development up and down Walnut alone is palpable; and really, this street is probably in greater immediate need of a facelift, given the current burst of growth in the area. Brighton Blvd, itself, is certainly seeing (and will be seeing more) residual development from the Riverfront Park area — CityGate, Block 32, etc.

      Again, once we see what will be the major hub, Great Divide Brewery, set root in the area (starting this year), everything else will come faster than the city will be able to keep up.

    • mckillio January 28, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Thankfully they’re doing both. But to the chicken or the egg question, regardless people should be able to safely walk along this street.

      • Nash January 29, 2015 at 9:40 pm

        One big obstacle the city will have to meet is the bottleneck where Brighton bends to the south, becoming Broadway, as it goes under the railroad bridge. It’s really too narrow for the multi-modal concept being suggested here. The RR bridge needs to be replaced with a long span — which will involve some big negotiations between the city and the railroads. But it’s got to be done, if “Broadway” — by any name — is to become the gateway/parkway/walkway/grand boulevard it should be.

        Looking north on Broadway from Downtown — at the Denargo Market complex to come — the Big Street needs to be wide, grand enough for a streetcar line someday.

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  7. Ted February 5, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    I know Denver likes to stick to a strictly traditional postal grid system of naming, but sometimes it gets ridiculous and definitely confusing to outsiders. While I respect the historic street names on neighborhood side-streets, I tend to agree that major travel routes should have consistent naming. The “two Broadways” problem could be solved by naming the older, disconnected one something like “Old Broadway” as was done with “Old Wadsworth” in Arvada.

    The worst one in town is the street commonly known as Speer. Along its entire length from the Highlands in Denver all the way out to Southeast Aurora, it goes by the names: Irving Street, Speer Boulevard, 1st Avenue, Steele Street, Cherry Creek North Drive, Alameda Avenue, Alameda Parkway, Tower Road, South Reservoir Road, South Himalaya Street, and East Orchard Road. This is all without requiring ever being in a turn lane and at at least 4 lanes of traffic the entire way (except for the small Irving segment). For one of the most iconic streets in Denver, and one that already defies the normal postal grid, I feel this one should definitely just be called “Speer Boulevard” along its entire length.

    • Ted February 5, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Sorry that was meant to be a reply to the long thread about renaming Brighton.

      • Tyler February 9, 2015 at 1:49 am

        Denver’s street grid is actually very simplistic compared to other cities. East/west streets are avenues while north/south streets are streets, boulevards, etc. North of Ellsworth Avenue, streets are in numerical order (1st Avenue, etc.) and, other than central Denver, the streets are in alphabetical order (Acoma Street, Bannock Street, etc,) going west, or double alphabetical order (Albion Street, Ash Street, Bellaire Street, Birch Street, etc.) going east.

        The reason why there is an “Olde” indicator on Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada is because the two Wadsworths run parallel to each other therefore resulting in duplicate block numbers and addresses. Broadway does not have this issue since its two discontinuous parts do not have duplicate block and address numbers, thereby making it relatively easy to navigate. For example, a street address at 2000 Broadway would be easily found at 20th Avenue and Broadway while one at 4700 Broadway would be found on the other section of Broadway at 47th Avenue and Broadway in Globeville. Renaming Brighton Boulevard to Broadway would not necessarily crate duplicate block and address numbers as those of the Broadway in Globeville, at least in most of the RiNo area. However, a new issue would arise here as Brighton Boulevard should technically be an east/west street (running perpendicular to the “north/south” numbered streets as the 1800 block indicator) while Broadway is a north/south street. Though the street numbers never actually change, this would mean that if Brighton Boulevard were renamed to Broadway it should not be called North Broadway, as Nash suggests above, but should be something like East Broadway (similar to Park Avenue West where it should be 23rd Street, even though this is because Park Ave West changes its formal direction from that of an east/west street to that of a north/south street despite maintaining an actual continuous northwest/southeast direction). Though considering there is no continuation of Brighton Boulevard west of Broadway, I suppose a directional prefix wouldn’t really be necessary at all. Either way, this is far more confusing than simply keeping the Brighton Boulevard name.

        Olde Wadsworth Boulevard is also an effective name because it passes directly through Olde Town Arvada; an area of the street that is actually older than the Wadsworth Bypass that circumvents it. Renaming one of the “two Broadways” to Old Broadway is not as cut and dry since both Broadway in Globeville and Brighton Boulevard in RiNo are, for all intents and purposes, equally old.

        As for the Speer Boulevard conundrum, I would say it is largely irrelevant as very few people are actually driving from Irving Street to Orchard Road. If, however, one was to be driving that whole stretch of road, and was incapable of looking at the street signs, a simple sense of direction or compass built into most modern cars could probably tell you what section of the road you are on. (Going south: likely to be on Irving Street, Steele Street, Tower Road, or Himilaya Street; going south east: likely to be on Speer Boulevard, Cherry Creek North Drive, or Reservoir Road; going east: likely to be on 1st Avenue or Alameda Avenue/Parkway; and on the ever so unlikely occasion one took the street to the point where you started heading back west: you are on Orchard Road).

        If Denver’s street system is too confusing though, I recommend never trying to navigate such humble cities as Greeley (where all streets and avenues are numbered) or Colorado Springs (where there is essentially no grid system and your Speer Boulevard example would pale in comparison to some of the continuous street name changes there).

        I say all of this mostly in jest because I think changing street names is often a bit ridiculous in this day and age, and is usually more hassle (and more money) than it’s worth. I mean, heck, if we are going to change the name of Brighton Boulevard, it should be changed to Wewatta Street (the actual 1800 block street of Denver’s diaonal grid system, right in its place between Wynkoop Street and Delgany Street). But all joking aside, I am completely serious about maintaining the Brighton Boulevard name for historical reasons, as well as ease of use. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And while the streetscape should certainly be classified as broken, the name ultimately should not.

        • Ted February 10, 2015 at 10:41 am

          Yes, I should have added that I actually think Brighton Boulevard is historically important and should not be renamed. It is one of a series of historic streets left over in the Denver area that were names after their destination (Parker Road, Santa Fe Drive, Brighton Boulevard, Morrison Road, and Ralston Road, and there may be others), and this history is important and should be respected. Your case about Eastbound vs. Northbound is an interesting one as well, since Broadway is indeed intended to be a north/south street. And I am intimately familiar with the history of Wadsworth since I live right nearby and really enjoy spending time in Olde Town Arvada (though I hate the use of the word “Olde”), but I do think that is a valid answer to having more than one parallel street with the same name. This is common in very old places, like town in Europe, where you will often see “Old ____ street.”

          I was mostly speaking in jest with the issue of Speer as well, but I do find it a bit ridiculous. East of the Denver city line, it may not really matter what it is called, and Aurora is free to name their streets whatever they want.

          I was serious about its name in the Cherry Creek area though. I, and others, commonly do follow it all the way from I-25 to Glendale, and I have always found the 1st Avenue, Steele Street, Cherry Creek North Drive, Alameda sequence of naming to be downright maddening. Renaming this all “Speer” wouldn’t even require re-naming any of the other streets “Old ____,” because there would be no concurrent segments of those streets left behind. Renaming East Alameda “Speer” would actually clear some things up, I would think, since it doesn’t even connect to the other “Alameda” that people west of University and Lakewood use often. Nor does 1st Avenue connect to the other “1sts”, or Steele to the other “Steeles,” so I think this would actually simplify things rather than make them more complicated. I once tried to explain to an out-of-towner how the name of Speer would change 4-5 times just going through the Cherry Creek area, and it all seemed very unnecessary.

        • Ryan February 11, 2015 at 2:36 pm

          This is a fun discussion. Thank you for your argument.

          Colorado Springs is a fantastic example of what I’m talking about, though. Yes, the lack of grid system is a nightmare, but when you turn on Academy Blvd from I-25, it stays Academy Blvd until it terminates — despite winding in about 16 different directions. At least Austin Bluffs waits until it crosses the interstate before becoming Garden of the Gods Road. Nevada waits until it’s largely outside of the city before becoming just Highway 115.

          • Ted February 12, 2015 at 1:24 pm

            Southern California is an example of a western place where a similar tactic is taken; I would guess because of all its hills and valleys and general absence of a Jeffersonian grid. Streets like Wilshire, Santa Monica, Sunset, Mullholland, Colorado Bvld, etc. keep their names along their entire length even though they meander through multiple postal grids.

            This is sort of the opposite approach to most European places, where most streets are literally only several blocks long, and will change name any time they bend slightly. Sometimes they change name even when they don’t bend, just because different segments were built and named at different times (the exception being certain monumental Boulevards).

            What really bothers me in Denver is when streets like “Decatur” or “Ogden” start popping up in the form of suburban cul-de-sacs way up in Westminster or Thornton, simply because they fall on the same postal grid-line. This phenomenon is essentially what is happening to Speer, as it was fashioned out of a bunch of pre-existing streets. But unless there is some plan that those streets may someday be RE-connected, I don’t see any reason the mainline of traffic couldn’t just be given a consistent name like “Speer.”

          • Tyler February 12, 2015 at 2:17 pm

            Ryan,

            My favorite example in Colorado Springs is Fontanero Street by The Garden of the Gods which turns into Fontmore Road, then Fillmore Street, then Circle Drive, and finally Lake Avenue. Academy Boulevard actually starts out as Stadium Boulevard, then South Gate Boulevard on the Air Force Academy before turning into Academy Boulevard, and it even ends up becoming Broadmoor Bluffs Drive by Fort Carson; so even it is not immune to Colorado Springs crazy road system. And even North Nevada Avenue becomes Corporate Drive north of I-25 and then Commerce Center Drive and Gillen Road north of Woodmen Road.

            Named streets changing names are just something to learn to live with and navigate around. Broadway/Brighton is no exception.

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