Could Brighton Boulevard become a pedestrian paradise?

by Jill Locantore on January 8, 2015

City’s 2015 budget includes $26 M for improvements

Brighton Boulevard Artists Rendering

Artist rendition of a multimodal Brighton Boulevard.  Source: City of Denver.

WalkDenver is excited to participate in a working group that is advising the City on the design of Brighton Boulevard from 29th St. to 44th St.  Last April the City released a plan [pdf] outlining a bold vision for transforming the 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 precendent 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?

Brighton Boulevard Existing Conditions

The obstacle course faced by pedestrians on Brighton Boulevard.  Source: City 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.

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 microclimate”
  • 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!

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