Four neighborhood business groups on Colfax Avenue are requesting $20 million in bond funding for new pedestrian medians, trees, crosswalks and other measures intended to make Colfax safer and more accessible.
The Colfax, West Colfax, Colfax Mayfair and Bluebird business improvement districts — known together as the Colfax Collaborative — say that the popularity of Colfax neighborhoods has brought more traffic, more pedestrians, and more enthusiasm from residents to fund safety measures like better pedestrian crosswalks across the road.
“The question is, how can we make Colfax — that is, Denver’s original main street — a truly main street, meaning that you have a comfortable pedestrian environment that is safe,” says Frank Locantore, executive director of the Colfax BID.
Colfax, which had six pedestrian deaths in 2015 and and four in 2016, is very wide relative to city thoroughfares and has long stretches without pedestrian crosswalks or intersection signals.
This means that pedestrians must often resort to what Anne Kuechenmeister, the director of economic development at the Bluebird BID, calls the “Colfax Frogger," or when pedestrians dodge cars on one side of the street before getting stuck in a skinny median that isn't designed for walkers.
“Our four BIDs all have the same critical issue,” says Kuechenmeister, “and that is safely getting people across the street and comfortably down our street. It is such a busy road.”
As a remedy, the improvement districts hope the City funds legitimate pedestrian medians, more stoplights to prevent jaywalking, better streetlights for visibility at night, and measures like new trash cans and landscaping to clean up the corridor. Proponents say that the improvements should have been funded even before the growth boom that Denver is experiencing.
The bond executive committee slashed the plan from $20 million to $6 million, an amount that has to survive another committee before heading to City Council sometime this summer. If approved, the funds will roll into the bond, which voters will decide on in November.
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“It is definitely long overdue,” says Locantore. “This [general obligation bond] opportunity doesn’t come along very often at all.”
Proponents of the plan are hopeful. Last fall the City began construction on $26 million in improvement to Brighton Boulevard sidewalks and gutters, the latest in a flood of public infrastructure projects in the RiNo district.
Sidewalk and street improvements have been a priority for Denver since 2000, when the city adopted its Blueprint Denver plan as part of its larger vision of a sustainable and accessible city.
“All Denver residents and visitors deserve to feel and be safe on our streets whether they are traveling as a pedestrian, by bus or train, on a bike, or by car,” said Mayor Michael Hancock in a written statement.