The city is headed back to the drawing board to figure out potential improvements to Quebec Street in Denver’s far east neighborhoods.
In September, Denver scrapped plans calling for two more traffic lanes on the major corridor, which currently has two lanes for most of its length. Principal Project Manager Brian Pinkerton said an environmental assessment for the project and public opinion revealed there would be major issues with the right-of-way affecting several homes along the corridor.
Now, the city is taking a step back to reevaluate. Its budget is significantly smaller: $1 to $3 million, down from the original $23 million. Federal grant money allocated by the Denver Regional Council of Governments became unavailable because it wasn’t used within the required timeframe.
The project focuses on the stretch of Quebec Street between 26th Avenue and 13th Avenue. The corridor intersects with another major roadway, Colfax, and runs through five neighborhoods: East Colfax, Montclair, North Park Hill, South Park Hill and Stapleton.
The overall vision for improvements has been tweaked. There will be more attention paid to improving the pedestrian experience along the corridor, though there are no set proposals yet. Broadly, Pinkerton said this could mean sidewalk improvements — or in some cases adding sidewalks where there are none — as well as adding bus shelters and improving crosswalks.
Denver Public Works spokeswoman Heather Burke-Bellile said in an email about 50 percent of the Quebec Street corridor has either no sidewalks or narrow attached sidewalks. That includes both east and west sides of the street.
“It is a heavy use corridor, including for pedestrians,” Pinkerton said. “Right now, there are dirt paths on the side of many stretches.”
Pinkerton said too many houses would be affected by the project if they continued adding additional northbound and southbound car lanes as initially planned. The impact would be “too great” to justify the improvement, Pinkerton added. It would have required the city taking bits of people’s properties, like driveways or even yards, to give the city space to make the infrastructure changes.
Overall, that initial plan “fell short of other goals and priorities,” he added.
“There were a number of properties where it was on that border,” Pinkerton said. “We just had to back off the idea of trying to make it four lanes.”
Disagreements between residents and the city on where the right-of-way ended and started would have likely led to court battles. Pinkerton said where these invisible lines begin and end varies throughout the corridor, complicating things.
To help with traffic congestion, Pinkerton said, the city is also considering making signal improvements or a turn lane.
Councilman Chris Herndon, whose district includes a large chunk of Quebec, said they he’s had several opportunities already to hear from residents. In fact, Herndon said he’s been having conversations about this corridor “for years.”
Safety is a big concern, he said, as well as making transit run better.
“That includes pedestrians, and the easiest way you think about that is sidewalks,” Herndon said. “We want to make sure that pedestrian access via sidewalks is paramount.”
Monica Martinez, executive director at nearby The Fax Denver, said her organization did not take a formal stance on the project’s previous plan. But she added that when she looked into it more, she felt the suggestion to expand Quebec was “problematic.”
“We definitely support East Colfax and transit and making streets more pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented,” Martinez said, adding that expanding the roads didn’t seem “consistent” with their values.
Pinkerton said moving forward, residents can expect public meetings to discuss the project during the first quarter of next year.