Centennial to consider possible Colorado Boulevard changes

City may weigh adding bike lanes, reducing car lanes on the road

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With few businesses, the least distinct north-south thoroughfare in west Centennial may be Colorado Boulevard, a major road running to Highlands Ranch on the south and a residential area in Greenwood Village on the north.

Although residents who don't live near it may not give it much thought, it's a target for potential changes by the City of Centennial that would make the road more accommodating for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In a survey that garnered about 120 responses, speeding cars ranked as the top issue on the road. Although the speed limit is 35 mph or 40 mph depending on the location, 199 vehicles were recorded speeding 55 mph or greater along Colorado Boulevard on one day in October 2019, according to a study submitted to the city. The maximum speed recorded was between 60 mph and 65 mph.

“The narrowing of traffic lanes within the corridor may help reduce vehicle speeds,” says the report, written by Muller Engineering Company.

The city sought community feedback on four “alternatives” it may ultimately pursue. Currently, Colorado Boulevard generally includes two southbound lanes, two northbound lanes and a turn lane in the middle.

The alternatives the city floated include the following:

• Removing the turn lane in the middle and add a bike lane on both sides of the road. It's unclear from the drawing provided on the city's website whether the bike lanes would be raised above the street to be level with the sidewalk.

• Reducing the road to one lane in both directions with a turn lane in the middle, adding bike lanes to be level with the street, with a small buffer space separating them from the car lanes.

• Reducing the road to one lane in both directions with a turn lane in the middle, adding raised bike lanes level with the sidewalk.

• Reducing the road to one lane in both directions with a turn lane in the middle, with a landscaped area, rather than sidewalks, adjacent to the road on both sides. Wide “shared-use paths” for pedestrians and cyclists would sit on the other side of the landscaped areas.

Comments split on traffic, bike use

An online-comment page saw about 50 comments from the public, with officials who are working on the city's project responding to them.

Safety of students walking or biking to Newton Middle School near Arapahoe Road came up as a concern among some commenters.

Area resident Mark Richards noted that several comments pointed to a low number of cyclists on Colorado Boulevard, but he argued that would change if the road were modified to accommodate them.

“During commuting times, many cyclists especially avoid riding on Colorado as the volume and speed of traffic make cycling on the roadway particularly dangerous,” Richards wrote.

Those who took the online survey about the road ranked “pedestrian crossing improvements” as the change they'd most like to see. Bike lanes and shared-use paths for cyclists and pedestrians ranked lower, but Richards argued the support for those changes was diluted by multiple categories: The survey asked about “bike lanes,” “buffered bike lanes” and “protected bike lanes” separately.

“While pedestrians and bicyclists may not be currently visible in high volumes in the corridor, many local residents have expressed the desire to use the Colorado corridor either by walking or cycling during the public input process,” wrote Rolando Melgoza, a traffic engineer for the city.

On the other hand, plans for bike lanes drew ire from many residents concerned with traffic.

“I do not approve of any plan that takes away vehicle traffic lanes. Why would we do that when traffic is getting worse?” Jennifer Ouellette wrote.

Some commenters feared more cut-through traffic running through neighborhood streets if lanes are reduced and drivers become frustrated with staying on Colorado Boulevard.

Melgoza wrote that the options that would reduce the road to one lane in each direction aim to reduce speed and cut-through traffic.

“Providing extra vehicle lanes has been found to have the reverse impact, higher speeds and more cut-through traffic,” Melgoza wrote.

Traffic data show that outside of the four highest-traveled hours of the day, traffic volumes “are well below thresholds that would indicate the need for two lanes in each direction,” Melgoza wrote.

In response to comments suggesting a greater law enforcement presence on the road to deter speeding cars, Melgoza wrote: “A physical narrowing of the roadway tends to provide more reliable reductions in travel speeds … Experience from other cities within the Denver metro area has found that increased law enforcement does not result in prolonged speed reduction within corridors.”

Ongoing process

Initial public outreach about possible changes to Colorado Boulevard took place from December to the early months of this year, and some delay in the process occurred from April through June due to the pandemic, according to the city's website.

A "virtual community meeting" — a webpage on the city's site with videos, sketches of potential changes and data gathered along the corridor — was offered in place of an in-person public meeting.

That's where the public was able to enter comments by Nov. 23. The comments are still viewable under “discussions."

Find the engineering report about traffic on the road, documents showing what possible changes could look like and other information on the city's webpage here.

A draft report on the possible changes is expected this winter, and a period marked “review” and “address comments” is set for January and February, according to a schedule at that link. A final report is expected around March.

The overall timeline for when changes could occur was unclear, but the city's website notes that no projects are currently planned for the corridor.

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