Denver's eight worst intersections

In this week's Westword, Alan Prendergast looks at the future of traffic in Denver. In reporting his story, he got the scoop on Denver's worst intersections.

The police keep track of the city's most dangerous intersections, based on accident reports. But we wanted to know the busiest traffic nightmares in town, the places where cars stack up and drivers get swallowed in a sinkhole of despair. As it so happens, the Denver Regional Council of Governments has a list of the eight intersections you most want to avoid.

DRCOG uses counts assembled from various sources, as well as "on-hand turning movement counts," to identify high-volume intersections. The program then takes counts from different periods of the day -- morning and afternoon rush times and an off-peak count -- and combines them to come up with a number that represents the total volume of vehicles entering the intersection for those three periods of the day.

The result is both surprising and stunningly obvious. For example, Colfax and Broadway don't make the list at all, but Hampden and the infernal boulevard known as Colorado make frequent appearances. Here, then, is a rubbernecker's delight, the commuter's gallery of horrors, the places to go when you're in no particular hurry to go anywhere:

8. Colorado Boulevard & 17th Avenue: 17,387 vehicles. Park Hill commuters meet up with north-south commuters and the Commerce City-bound, just a few steps from the zoo. It's a jungle out there.

7. Colorado Boulevard & Mexico Avenue: 17,705 vehicles. Exit from I-25 and be prepared to come to a stop on your way to the big-box stores. A complete stop.

6. Colorado Boulevard & Hampden Avenue: 18,074 vehicles. This one's a puzzle. All those Cherry Hills Hummers do take up some space, but who knew the Wellshire Golf Course was such a draw?

5. Colorado Boulevard & 6th Avenue: 18,248 vehicles. Where the rubber really meets the road. Long lines of southeast-bound commuters, turning into the wasteland to make that jog to Leetsdale. Lowryites head westbound, turning into the wasteland to make the jog to 8th. And one wasteland to waste them all.

4. Monaco Parkway & Hampden Avenue: 18,490 vehicles. Exit from I-25 and be prepared to come to a stop on your way to the strip malls. A total and complete stop.

3. Colorado Boulevard & Alameda Avenue: 19,397 vehicles. The Gunther Toody's crowd crosses bumpers with the Shotgun Willy's crowd. Is this a great country or what?

2. University Boulevard & Hampden Avenue: 20,439 vehicles. If you live deep, deep in the south-central burbs, University is a better bet than Colorado. At least, it used to be.

1. University Boulevard & 1st Avenue: 21,940 vehicles. Now we're talking. A perpetual contender for most accident-prone intersection, this gateway to the Cherry Creek shopping extravaganza is also, statistically, the busiest locale for your peak or off-peak motoring pleasure. It's the place to see and be seen while waiting for all the left-turn-lane hogs to stop whipping in front of you, long after their turn arrow has expired.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast