Better Denver Bond project that has just gotten underway this past week is the reconstruction of Broadway through Downtown Denver’s Arapahoe Square district.

You may recall in 2006 the city reconstructed Broadway in concrete from 16th Avenue north to 20th Avenue/Welton Street, and that in the early 2000s, Broadway was rebuilt in concrete north of Lawrence Street as part of the Broadway/Brighton Boulevard viaduct replacement project. The gap in between, from Lawrence to Welton, is the stretch of Broadway that is now under reconstruction.

To describe what the project includes, here’s a bullet list I’ve copied directly from the city’s webpage for the project:

  • This project will transform Broadway from asphalt to concrete, and replace traffic signal equipment at three intersections.
  • The existing traffic signal equipment is to be replaced at the intersections of Broadway with 20th/California, Stout, and Champa.
  • The work includes the removal of asphalt paving, curb and gutter, and traffic signal equipment, and the construction of concrete pavement, driveways, alley approaches, concrete curb and gutter, concrete sidewalk, pedestrian ramps, storm drainage improvements, traffic signal equipment installation, pavement marking, signing, and lighting.
  • These improvements will include some bulb-outs that will reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians at selected crosswalks.
  • The updated signals will include pedestrian poles for pedestrians to inform them when it is safe to cross.
  • New street lights and relocations will improve night lighting.
  • The new concrete pavement will improve ridability for vehicles and aesthetics.
  • Improved ADA ramps (with truncated domes retrofitted into old ramps for aiding those with sight impairments).

I’ve created the following exhibit to show the project area and where the new bulb-outs (curb extensions) will be located, represented by the black lines (click and zoom/scroll to view the whole image at full size):

You’ll note from the above exhibit that two medians on Broadway will be installed. These will be what are called flush medians; i.e. they are flush with the roadway concrete but will be visually perceived as medians through the use of colored patterned concrete. The flush median between Stout and Champa will be used to prohibit vehicles on 21st Street from crossing Broadway. Currently, vehicles traveling on 21st Street can cross Broadway, but since that intersection is not signalized, doing so is a rather risky maneuver.  Once this project is complete, vehicles on 21st Street approaching Broadway will be forced to make a right turn onto Broadway. This new flush median will also be used to prohibit vehicles traveling northbound on Broadway from turning left onto northwest-bound 21st Street, and vehicles traveling southbound on Broadway from turning left onto southeast-bound 21st Street. Eliminating these vehicle movements at 21st and Broadway will certainly improve safety and traffic flow in the area.

While there are a number of nice improvements coming out of this project, there are a couple of things I’m disappointed with. First, the project is not being built to the full DMAP (Downtown Multimodal Access Plan) standards that calls for Broadway in this area to be reduced to two lanes in each direction with a 14-foot wide raised landscaped median. To see what I mean, check out page 18 from the DMAP Plan Report, and pages 50 and 51 from the DMAP Streetscape Plan (both links go to the city’s website). In response to these criticisms, Denver Public Works has said that there’s not enough money in the budget to rebuild Broadway to the full DMAP standards, and that nothing they are constructing as part of this project will prohibit the implementation of the full DMAP streetscape standard on Broadway in the future.

My second disappointment with this project is that Public Works is moving forward with it right when Community Planning & Development is in the middle of preparing the Northeast Downtown Neighborhoods Plan, which includes a separate district plan for Arapahoe Square.  Several of the long-range concepts for Arapahoe Square being evaluated as part of the planning process involve narrowing or even possibly removing Broadway for a few blocks. While additional traffic studies would be necessary before any major modifications to Broadway in Arapahoe Square could be made, I think it would have been prudent to hold off on rebuilding Broadway in its current configuration—in concrete—until the Arapahoe Square plan was complete.

But, to end on a positive note, the bulb-outs, new traffic signals, lighting, cross-walks, and curb ramps will definitely enhance the pedestrian environment in Arapahoe Square and improve the overall aesthetics and safety of the Broadway corridor.