How CDOT’s Main Streets program is prioritizing people and safety in the heart of our communities

I spoke with leaders in Lone Tree, Englewood, Centennial, Morrison, Nederland, the City of Boulder, Boulder County, Arapahoe County, Northglenn and Denver about the Safer Main Streets projects in their areas. Here's what they said about how this refreshing CDOT program will impact the streets that run through the hearts of our communities.

I’m excited to share some of the stories of a great program in Colorado that is making our streets more people-friendly and has the promise of saving lives.  

I live in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood, and I enjoy walking around my neighborhood. 

I use a flashing beacon to cross a busy main street so I can browse my local bookstore. And I enjoy shopping at the local farmers market that takes place on West 32nd Avenue (closed off to cars during the market).  

While I enjoy spending my weekends walking around the Highlands, I am all too aware of the traffic violence that takes so many lives unnecessarily every year.

I’ve seen people almost crash into one another as they navigate street parking, and I witnessed a crash at West 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard that killed a father of two young children.

My story isn’t unique. Unfortunately, many streets in Denver and across Colorado are dangerous for people to travel along and cross by foot, bike, wheelchair, or with a stroller. 

Fortunately, communities with state support, are changing our streets so that they are safer and more people friendly. 

To support this effort, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), in coordination with local partners, is pumping over $150 million into the Safer Main Streets and Revitalizing Main Streets programs. 

The initial Safer Main Streets projects can be found here

These projects represent a wide range of improvements like:

  • Adding raised medians on roads to make it easier and safer for people to cross the street; 
  • Installing new sidewalks and curb ramps;
  • Adding protected bike lanes; 
  • Installing flashing signals to let drivers know that people are crossing the street;
  • Creating multi-use paths that will connect people to major transit stations. 

I am excited to see Colorado dedicate this money to projects that make it safer to walk, bike, roll, and take public transportation. And the elected officials and planners in the communities that got funding to implement Safer Main Streets projects are, too. 

Here are their stories. 

  

Sidewalks and curb ramps along Federal Boulevard in Arapahoe County 

I spoke with James Katzer, Transportation Division Manager for Arapahoe County, about one of Arapahoe County’s Safer Main Streets projects. 

Arapahoe County got Safer Main Streets funding to fix old sidewalks and build new sidewalks and curb ramps along Federal Boulevard. 

Federal Boulevard is a big arterial street that carries a lot of cars, people, and buses each day, and too often cars speed through the area. 

Adding and fixing sidewalks and curb ramps will make it safer for people to walk and roll along the street. Since six different RTD bus stops are along the stretch of road that this project is a part of, people taking the bus will also benefit from these new and improved sidewalks.

Denver will make it safer to walk, roll, and take the bus on West Colfax Avenue and Evans Avenue

Denver has a number of projects moving forward. I spoke with Jenn Hillhouse, Director of Transportation Mobility Planning for Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, about two of them. 

The city will install raised medians to reduce crashes along Evans Avenue and West Colfax Avenue, two major arterials that are also part of the high-injury network, the streets that make up the bulk of the injuries and fatalities.  

Raised medians make it easier to cross the street by providing a safe refuge. The city will also add curb extensions along West Colfax Avenue to make the street more narrow, which will help get people to drive slower

Lone Tree will make it safer to cross streets across the city

I spoke with Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet about the city’s Safer Main Streets projects that will make it easier and safer for people to bike, walk, and roll across streets around town.

The city of Lone Tree got funding to redo sidewalks and ramps and install flashing beacons at six intersections around the city. Making these intersections safer will connect people to libraries, medical centers, grocery stores, and small businesses. 

There is also money to provide a better, safer trail connection to a major RTD light rail station

Northglenn will create a pedestrian and bicycle safe network

I spoke with Northglenn City Councilor Joyce Downing about Northglenn’s Safer Main Streets project. 

Northglenn got Safer Main Streets funding to improve crosswalks and bike lanes across the city. The city will also install flashing beacons to alert drivers that people are crossing the street. 

City of Boulder will make it safer to ride your bike throughout the city

I spoke with Boulder City Councilor Aaron Brockett about Boulder’s Safer Main Streets project. 

Many people in Boulder use bikes to get around town and it is important to make sure that people can bike without becoming victims of crashes. 

Boulder got Safer Main Streets funding to improve traffic signals and put up signs at ten intersections across the city that have high volumes of people on bikes interacting with vehicles. 

Nederland will upgrade sidewalks near affordable housing and a RTD station

I spoke with Chris Pelletier, Public Works Manager for the Town of Nederland, about Nederland’s Safer Main Streets project. 

Nederland got Safer Main Streets funding to improve sidewalks near an affordable housing complex and a RTD station. This project will connect people to public transit and downtown.

Englewood will make multimodal improvements on E. Dartmouth Avenue to calm traffic

I spoke with Maria D’Andrea, Director of Public Works for the City of Englewood. The City of Englewood received funding to implement traffic calming measures and safety improvements along Dartmouth Avenue. 

Dartmouth Avenue is a collector road, which means that a big purpose of the road is to connect people to businesses and larger arterial roads. Although Dartmouth Avenue connects people to other roads and businesses, the part of the road that is getting these improvements is lined with houses and families. 

According to D’Andrea, between 6,000 and 7,000 vehicles per day travel along the segment of Dartmouth Avenue that is undergoing improvements. RTD also uses the road for some of its bus routes. Three of the intersections on the segment have a higher than normal crash rate, and the city wants to reduce crashes to make the street safer to bike, walk, roll, and drive on. 

Here come the improvements. 

The city will replace traffic signals at three intersections on Dartmouth Avenue with mini roundabouts, add on-street bike lanes, widen sidewalks, and add flashing beacons to other intersections to let drivers know about crossing pedestrians. 

These improvements will make traffic go slower along the street, give people more dedicated space to walk, bike, and roll, and ultimately help everyone travel along the street more safely. 

Englewood is a first-ring suburb of Denver, so it wasn’t originally planned for people to get around without a car. The city has a limited amount of space to make the changes it needs to help people get from one place to another safely and car free. So projects like the one on Dartmouth Avenue that “retrofit the infrastructure and fit things in a limited amount of space” are important to making those changes. 

According to D'Andrea, it’s ultimately about quality of life and “moving traffic and making sure that people have a great place to live.”

D’Andrea recommends that other communities apply for funding to implement Safer Main Streets projects. She is excited to see more funding available and wants the city to apply for more funding to implement safety projects in downtown Englewood. 

 

 

Morrison will make multimodal improvements to their main street downtown

I spoke with Angie Kyle, Carrie McCool, and Kara Winters, who work for the Town of Morrison. The Town of Morrison received funding to restripe and align crosswalks with curb ramps and add pedestrian refuges and curb bump outs on their main street downtown. 

Morrison is a small mountain town, and its main street, Bear Creek Avenue, is lined with small businesses, local restaurants, and a park, places residents and visitors enjoy going to. 

But like a lot of small mountain towns, a state highway serves as its main street through downtown. That means the street is busier than a normal street and has a higher likelihood of crashes. So, Morrison applied for a Safer Main Streets grant from CDOT to make downtown a safer place for pedestrians and people on bikes and in wheelchairs. 

One thing that officials noticed along Bear Creek Avenue was that crosswalks didn’t line up with curb ramps, so the town is regrading intersections and restriping crosswalks to make sure that people in wheelchairs and using walkers and strollers can follow the crosswalk all the way from one side of the street to the other. 

The city will also include curb bump outs to shorten the distance people need to cross the street and add flashing beacons at some crosswalks to let drivers know to expect someone crossing the street and to stop. 

Morrison is a small town with an aging population, so curb improvements that will make it easier and safer for people using wheelchairs and walkers to get around are critically important, but the city doesn’t have a lot of money to make every improvement it wants. That’s why the Safer Main Streets project is so important to them. Without the funding, the Town of Morrison would have a harder time making these needed improvements to help their residents and visitors. 

Everyone that I spoke to who works for the Town of Morrison recommends that other communities apply for Safer Main Streets funding to make safety improvements on streets in their communities. 

 

 

Centennial will make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross an arterial street

I spoke with Centennial City Councilors Christine Sweetland and Tammy Maurer about Centennial’s Safer Main Streets project. Centennial received funding to implement pedestrian safety improvements along South Holly Street. 

South Holly Street is a four-lane arterial street, meaning that a high number of vehicles travel along the street each day. At the same time, people walk and bike across the street to get to and from trails and parks. 

There isn’t currently a dedicated place for people to cross the street, so people often dash across the street whenever they feel they have a chance, which puts those people at high risk of being hurt or killed in a crash. Residents who use the street approached the City Council to alert them to this problem and asked for a solution. 

So when the City Council found out about the Safer Main Streets funding, they thought of South Holly Street. South Holly Street will get a dedicated crosswalk with a HAWK signal, a button that people crossing the street can push to alert drivers and let them know to stop, at Easter Avenue. This will give people a dedicated, safer way to cross the street and get to parks and trails

Although the City of Centennial knew that South Holly Street needed to have a dedicated crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists, the city couldn’t complete the project until it saved up all of the money needed for the project. According to city staff, they couldn’t take out loans or depend on bonds. 

When the city found out about the Safer Main Streets funding, it applied for funding with that project in mind. If Centennial didn’t get the Safer Main Streets funding for that project, that project wouldn’t have been implemented this soon.

Both Councilor Sweetland and Councilor Maurer recommend that other communities apply for Safer Main Streets funding. They recommend DRCOG as a resource if you need any help. 

 

 

Boulder County will make it safer for people to ride their bikes between towns

I spoke with Alexander Hyde-Wright, Senior Transportation Planner for Boulder County about Boulder County’s Safer Main Streets project. The county received funding to widen shoulders and make striping improvements on US-36 to give people riding their bikes between towns a dedicated space to do so and let people driving to know to expect bicyclists on certain parts of the road. 

The stretch of US-36 that is the focus for Boulder County’s Safer Main Streets project is a particularly dangerous and deadly stretch of road. The speed limit on much of the highway ranges from 50-65 miles per hour. 

At the same time, many bicyclists and drivers use the road each day. According to Hyde-Wright, that stretch of road sees about 1,000 cyclists per day in the summer and 12,000-14,000 vehicles per day. The combination of high speeds and high volumes of bike and vehicular traffic have resulted in that stretch of road having the highest bike crash fatalities in the past ten years. 

There is a clear and urgent need to make that stretch of US-36 safer for people riding their bikes. 

Boulder County adopted a Vision Zero plan, which is a plan to make sure that no one in the county dies from traffic violence by 2035, and part of that plan is making sure that people can ride their bikes along US-36 without needing to worry about being hit by someone driving a car. 

The county is evaluating the potential for a high-comfort bikeway along US-36, but in the meantime, officials want to do everything they can, as fast as they can, to reduce crashes on that road. 

To reduce crashes on US-36 while the it evaluates its larger project, Boulder County will use Safer Main Streets funding to give bicyclists a dedicated space throughout the stretch of US-36 between Boulder and Lyons, restripe intersections, and add signs to let drivers know they need to expect to see bicyclists. 

Hyde-Wright says that projects like this are extremely important to residents of Boulder County. Projects that improve safety and quality of life for bicyclists are top priorities for the public because many people in Boulder County use their bikes for recreation and to get where they need to go.

Community members bringing forth their concerns about traffic crashes is what brought the county to adopt a Vison Zero plan. Hyde-Wright says that just because projects like this or the high-comfort bikeway could be difficult to implement, doesn’t mean they aren’t “the right thing to do.”

Hyde-Wright recommends that other communities apply for Safer Main Streets funding to implement similar projects in their communities because outside funding allows your dollars to go further and you to get more done.