Mayor Hancock: It’s time to fix Federal Boulevard.

by Jessica Vargas on September 8, 2017

The lives of Denver residents are at stake.

In just the last two weeks, two people walking on Federal Boulevard were killed in traffic crashes in separate incidents within three days of each other. So far this year, a total of 10 people, 6 of them walking, have died in crashes on Federal – a fatality rate more than 20 times the average for urban streets in Colorado.

We have the ability to prevent this carnage. Mayor Hancock acknowledged this when he declared Denver’s commitment to Vision Zero and eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries on our streets. Now is the time to back up this commitment with action.

The victims of fatal crashes on Federal come from all walks of life, but their deaths have something in common: speed is a critical factor. The speed limit on South Federal Boulevard is 40 mph. A pedestrian struck by a car traveling that speed has a 73% chance of dying or suffering a life-altering serious injury. Federal is designed to facilitate high-speed travel and more often than not, people drive well above the posted speed limit. This is simply unacceptable for a major urban corridor lined with multifamily housing, schools, mom-and-pop businesses, parks, cultural destinations, social service providers, and major transit routes – Federal has the second highest ridership in the entire RTD system.

The City’s recently completed Federal Boulevard Corridor Plan and draft Vision Zero Action Plan both identify strategies for managing speed and making Federal a safe place where residents and businesses can thrive. Here we highlight three specific actions the City should undertake immediately:

Add traffic calming measures that reinforce safe speeds and increase pedestrian safety at key crossings. These include:

  • Raised, planted medians that limit dangerous turning motions and slow traffic
  • Pedestrian median refuges that shorten crossing distances and provide people walking a safe place to wait half-way across the street
  • High-visibility mid-block crossing opportunities with pedestrian activated signals that connect important destinations
  • Reduced corner radii that slow turning vehicles and increase pedestrian space

Dedicate lanes for transit vehicles to reduce conflict between modes, improve transit operations, and further calm traffic. Funding for similar transit improvements along Colfax are included in the 2017 GO Bond. Unfortunately, City Council removed $9.8 million for transit enhancements along Federal during a final round of amendments to the GO Bond project list.

Build a coalition to revise Colorado state law to allow automated speed enforcement within broader contexts. Current law prohibits use of speed cameras along much of the High Injury Network – the 5% of Denver’s streets where 50% of the traffic fatalities occur – which includes Federal Boulevard. Automated enforcement is a proven technique used worldwide to reduce speed-related injuries and fatalities, and when deployed effectively actually results in fewer citations as safer travel speeds become the norm.

These changes to Federal Boulevard are not luxuries that can wait ten years for possible funding when the City considers another GO Bond – hundreds of people could die during that timeframe if we do nothing. Action is urgently needed to protect the health and well-being of Denver’s residents, particularly the most vulnerable: children, older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income families that rely on walking, biking, and transit to meet their daily needs. Mayor Hancock and City Council should therefore include a significant allocation for Federal Boulevard in the 2018 budget.

Mayor Hancock recently announced his Mobility Action Plan that sets goals for Choice (reducing single-occupancy vehicle commutes to 50%) and Safety (eliminating traffic fatalities by 2030), among others. If Denver is serious about encouraging its residents and visitors to get out of their cars, and eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on our streets, then making Federal a more people-friendly street is the right thing to do.

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