In the next 25 years, more than 110,000 new jobs, an additional 40,000 person trips per day, and 25,000 new residents will come to the Colfax corridor (data provided by the Colfax Corridor Connections study). That’s a recipe for a chaotic “mosh-pit” style in the public realm on Colfax if critical improvements are not made. This is why the four business improvement districts (BIDs) on Colfax Avenue that call themselves the “Colfax Collaborative” believe restoring the full $20 million General Obligation Bond, or GO Bond, funding for the 8-mile stretch of Colfax is an extremely wise investment for the city’s most iconic main street.
In the last ten to twenty years, all 32 city plans for Colfax have called for pedestrian safety and streetscape improvements but none of them were ever funded or implemented and hardly any substantial city money has ever been put towards that goal. The funding from the GO Bond for Colfax Avenue would be the first major public investment for Colfax in 50 years. But, the Colfax Collaborative fears that the opportunity could pass them by—yet again.
This spring, $20 million in pedestrian safety and streetscape improvements along an 8-mile stretch of Colfax, from Monaco Parkway to Sheridan Boulevard was recommended for full funding by a bond subcommittee. However, the project was drastically cut to $6 million and sent to the Mayor and City Council for their consideration this July and August. The $6M currently allocated will only cover what the City considers to be “critical systems” areas, which are infrastructure improvements necessary to maintain the basic function of the transportation system.
What they fail to recognize is that pedestrian infrastructure IS a critical transportation system. By reducing funding by more than two-thirds it eliminates items designed to create a comfortable, walkable main street for the tens of thousands of Denver residents who live, work and visit. It will also not fully take advantage of $500,000 in design funding that Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman championed and won unanimous City Council approval in order to prepare Colfax for a $20 million investment from the bond.
Everyone that knows Colfax and wants the corridor to prosper can help. We are asking Colfax neighbors, supporters and business owners to urge the Mayor and their City Council members to restore full $20 million in funding for the Colfax Corridor Pedestrian Improvements Project.
Reasons for fully funding Colfax:
Main Street Destination, Not Crash Corridor
Every one of the 32 city plans envision Colfax Avenue as a walkable, vibrant and safe main street that attracts people. The road today doesn’t match the vision, because Colfax is maintained as a state highway. There are many traffic lanes, the pedestrian crossings are too far apart, and very little landscaping or pedestrian lighting--all of this encourages motorists to speed which run counter to main street design.
The conditions are also dangerous for people—Colfax is now the city’s top crash corridor, with 10 pedestrian deaths in 2015-16.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in the main street vision that has been on the books for so long,” said Hilarie Portell, Executive Director of the Colfax Mayfair BID. “If we make the area more comfortable and safe for people, we will attract more customers and more neighborhood-serving businesses. If we keep prioritizing cars over people on Colfax, it will continue to operate as an unsafe, high-speed commercial corridor.”
Economic Development Potential
The current road conditions tend to attract convenience uses for cars (fast food, for example) that want to locate on heavy commercial corridors. The Colfax Collaborative is proposing $20 million in general bond improvements across the four BIDs. Pedestrian-friendly improvements reduce traffic speeds, promote stronger property values for businesses and homes, and create more local jobs and tax revenues for the city. In the coming years Colfax Ave is expected to see an increase of 110,000 jobs and 25,000 new residents. We need to support and encourage this growth by improving access to and from this critical economic lifeline.
Precedent in Other Corridors
These outcomes are precisely why the city has invested more than $40 million in Brighton Boulevard (20 blocks) and $37 million on South Broadway (17 blocks) in recent years. The current bond list also includes $23 million to improve 5 blocks of Washington Street north of I-70 and $16.7 million for a 7-block stretch of West 13th Avenue.
Colfax is a critical corridor that needs investment for safety, economic development, and to support transit investments on the street that will encourage more walking and biking. City Council and our Mayor need to reinstate $14 million for eight miles of our city’s iconic main street.
Colfax for People
On a positive note, the current bond list does include $55 million for Colfax Bus Rapid Transit improvements. This would include improvements to the roadway and BRT transit stations from Broadway to Yosemite Street. Imagine a day when you can jump on a modern Colfax bus that comes every five minutes to get to work, enjoy a concert or head over to the Tattered Cover. The BRT is a critical mobility investment and when people de-board from the bus, they need to enter a safe and welcoming street environment so that can get to their final destination safely. That’s why we need transit AND pedestrian improvements for everyone who uses the street.
If Not Now, When?
It has taken 30 years for the four BIDs to organize, complete planning, accumulate funds for long-term maintenance costs and get the Colfax Corridor Pedestrian Improvements project on the bond list. The reduction of funds from $20 million to $6 million for this project is at odds with the tremendous support from 15 adjacent neighborhoods, representing 75,000 neighbors and six city council districts. It is also at odds with the bond package’s emphasis on upgrading Denver’s mobility network to move more people, not just cars.
“Our BIDs are comprised of civic-minded business leaders who tax themselves more to make Colfax Avenue a better place for everyone,” said Jamie Harris, president of the Colfax Mayfair BID. “As a group, we’ve already invested nearly $250,000 and have committed to spend millions on long-term maintenance. We are ready to partner with the city to bring Colfax to the next level as a truly great street. So we have to ask, if not now—when?”
Visit bit.ly/fundcolfax to email the Mayor and our City Council members to urge their support of full funding for the $20 million Colfax Corridor Pedestrian Improvements Project.