Ready, set, GO: Jump Starting Denver’s Multimodal Future

by Jessica Vargas on August 24, 2017

WalkDenver’s analysis of the 2017 GO Bond

Mayor Michael Hancock has been using the phrase “mobility freedom” a lot lately to describe a future vision for our city, where residents have the freedom to choose from a variety of safe, convenient transportation options and are no longer dependent on personal automobiles to get everywhere they need to go. The Mayor’s recently-released Mobility Action Plan sets out two particularly ambitious goals for the year 2030: reducing the percent of people who drive alone to work to 50% (currently it’s 73% and climbing) and eliminating traffic fatalities (currently fatal crashes happen more than once per week, on average).

The Action Plan recognizes that achieving these goals will require a significant investment in Denver’s transportation infrastructure, and identifies the GO Bond that Denverites will be voting on this November as an important source of funding. Below is WalkDenver’s analysis of how far the GO Bond will actually go toward creating true mobility freedom.

The basics: Sidewalks and bike lanes

To be functional, a transportation system must provide a network of basic infrastructure that connects people from their homes to their daily destinations. While Denver has a comprehensive network of streets, with bus lines running down many of those streets, its network of sidewalks and bike lanes is far from complete. Forty percent of Denver’s streets have missing or substandard sidewalks, meaning that walking just isn’t an option for many Denver residents.

Similarly, the bicycle network envisioned in the Denver Moves Bikes Plan is only about one-third complete. That’s exactly why WalkDenver, together with other members of the Denver Streets Partnership, has been advocating for the City to increase funding for walking and biking from the current level of just $5 million per year to $40 million per year – the level of investment needed to build out these networks over the next 20 years. The once-in-a-decade GO Bond allocates a combined $71.7 million to sidewalks and bike lanes, which added to the current base would bring the annual investment in this infrastructure to just over $12 million – a meaningful increase that will help jumpstart the buildout of a more complete transportation system.

Improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety

The GO Bond allocates an additional $43.7 million to projects that will enhance the safety and comfort of people walking and biking in areas that may have sidewalks or bike lanes, but still suffer from dangerous conditions or major barriers. A couple of prime examples include $7 million for bike, pedestrian and accessibility improvements to the Alameda underpass just east of Santa Fe, and $9.4 million for a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the railroad crossing at 47th and York.

Completing the streets and improving transit

The GO Bond further allocates $163.5 million for “complete streets” projects that make streets work better for everyone whether they are walking or biking for shorter trips, taking transit for longer trips, or just trying to drive more safely down one of the dangerous streets in Denver’s “High Injury Network.”

The standout in this category is $55 million for Bus Rapid Transit along Colfax, which will not only significantly increase the frequency and reliability of transit service along the corridor, but also make this notoriously crash-prone street safer for everyone, particularly people on foot. Another big ticket item is $23 million for a complete reconstruction of Washington Street in Globeville into a multimodal corridor, similar to the makeover of Brighton Boulevard currently underway in RiNo.

Everything else: roads and bridges

The remainder of the transportation funding in the GO Bond includes just under $110 million for deferred maintenance of streets and bridges and $27 million for widening 56th Avenue in Montbello. While these projects help keep our existing infrastructure in good condition, and might make life easier for people driving, they don’t provide any new mobility options.

The bottom line: A critical step forward

Of the nearly $1 billion in the full Bond package, about half – $431 million – is dedicated to transportation. By our calculations, 67% of this transportation funding – about $280 million – is for projects that will in fact create more mobility freedom by adding miles of new sidewalks and bike lanes, enhancing the safety of these networks, and transforming major corridors into complete streets that make walking, biking, and transit all more attractive options than they are today. In this way, the GO Bond is a significant down payment on the vision outlined in the Mayor’s Mobility Action Plan, and a critical first step toward completing the network of humble sidewalks and basic bike lanes needed for every Denver neighborhood to be walkable and bikeable.

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