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Posts from the "Denver" Category

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Other Cities Look to Tear Down Their Old Highways, But Not Denver

Denver's plan for I-70 is to bury it, widen it and cap it. Image: I70east.com

Denver’s plan for I-70 is to widen it, bury it, and cap a small part of it. Photo: I70east.com

Denver has one of those golden opportunities that many American cities are seizing: An elevated highway that damaged neighborhoods is nearing the end of its life, giving the city an opening to repair the harm.

Unfortunately, as Tanya has reported, Denver seems poised to double down on highway building instead. The city is looking to bury and widen Interstate 70 through the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, then cap a small section. The $1.8 billion proposal would add four lanes to I-70 — two in each direction — for a total of 10 lanes.

This visualization shows how the highway would look widened and with a cap. Image: I70east.com

A look at the proposal to sink and widen I-70 and put an 800-foot-long park on it. Image: I70east.com

While Denver has been booming in general, the neighborhoods bisected by I-70, which was laid down through the city in the 1950s, haven’t shared in the good fortune. Thanks to the many trucks roaring through and the eyesore of the elevated highway, Elyria-Swansea and nearby communities suffer from excessive traffic, environmental problems, and disinvestment.

Proponents of the highway plan call it a “corridor of opportunity” and are promising a network of parks, open space, and transit. A big sweetener is the proposed 800-foot-long park they say would be built on the highway lid.

But according to community activist and  former City Council member Susan Barnes-Gelt, the design does little to mend connections between the two neighborhoods. She says there’s no excuse for widening highways through urban neighborhoods in an age when many cities are choosing to tear them down.

In a Denver Post editorial earlier this year, Barnes-Gelt wrote that under Mayor Michael Hancock, what could have been a big step forward for the city is “morphing back into a highway project.” It’s especially disappointing considering Denver’s recent history of smart planning, she said.

“This is what happens when people that can make a difference don’t pay attention,” she told Streetsblog.

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How Two Regions Reined in Job Piracy — And Two Others Failed

They call it “intra-regional job piracy” — when one town uses tax breaks to lure employers from neighboring towns.

Job poaching in the Kansas City region has been called a "border war." Photo: Wikipedia

Job poaching in the Kansas City region has been called a “border war.” Photo: Wikipedia

Job piracy is very common in regions across the United States. And it almost always results in employers moving farther from the central city. As the D.C.-based think tank Good Jobs First has shown [PDF], this job sprawl generates traffic, reduces the effectiveness of transit, inflates infrastructure costs, and impedes access to opportunity for low-income people.

Many metro areas have also grappled with how to solve this problem, and some are performing better than others. A new report from Good Jobs First [PDF] highlights how some regions have wrestled this problem under control, while others continue to let it run rampant.

Here’s a look at the best and worst approaches examined by Good Jobs First, starting with the success stories.

Denver

Greater Denver is a model of regional cooperation, and it’s paying off for the economy, Good Jobs First reports.

Business recruitment in greater Denver is handled by a regional economic development corporation representing 70 cities, counties, and economic development groups dedicated to promoting the region as a “single economic entity.” All members of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation sign an ethics agreement, stressing the principles of transparency, cooperation, and respect. The ethics guide is designed to ensure member entities are promoting the wellbeing of the region first, ahead of their own self-interest.

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Denver’s Big Opportunity for World-Class Streets

Denver might see one of its major corridors radically transformed. Image: Bike5280

Denver could transform Broadway with transit enhancements and a two-way protected bike lane. Photosim: Bike5280

Just a few months ago, Denver opened its first protected bike lane on 15th Street. But was that a one-off project or will the Mile High City change the way it designs streets citywide?

The city’s approach to the redesign of Broadway will give a pretty strong indication of how serious Denver leaders are about making safer, multi-modal streets. David Mintzer at Network blog Bike5280 reports that there are some transformative designs (including the one above) kicking around:

Given the high speed of traffic, few cyclists feel safe riding down this corridor and it is unlikely that a 5 foot wide striped bike lane would provide much comfort. Currently Broadway is an expanse of concrete with 5 lanes of speeding traffic. But there is the potential to be so much more.

The newly released Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan has published an ambitious design for transforming Broadway into a grand multimodal boulevard. Here we see [pictured above] a protected two-way bike lane conveniently placed alongside a B-Cycle bike share station and a separated bus lane on the right.

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Anthony Foxx Kicks Off Nationwide Project for Better Bike Lanes

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx praised bike infrastructure as a way to get more value out of existing U.S. streets. Photo: Green Lane Project

Staring down a highway trust fund that he described as “teetering toward insolvency” by August or September, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Monday that better bike infrastructure projects are part of the solution.

“When you have a swelling population like the USA has and will have for the next 35 years, one of the most cost-effective ways to better fit that population is to better use the existing grid,” Foxx said.

Foxx made his comments to a gathering in Indianapolis of urban transportation experts from around the country, welcoming six new cities into the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project, a two-year program kicking off Tuesday that will help the cities — Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle — add modern protected bike lanes to their streets.

“I know you are the vanguard in many was of these issues, and we at U.S. DOT want to do everything we can to be supportive,” Foxx told the crowd.

PeopleForBikes Vice President for Local Innovation Martha Roskowski singled out Indianapolis, the host city, as a particularly bright light in the constellation of towns using using curbs, planters, parked cars or posts to create low-stress streets by separating bike and auto traffic.

“This city is on fire,” Roskowski said. “You look at the Cultural Trail, you look at the other projects in the works. … You don’t really know that you’re at a tipping point until later.”

Roskowski praised Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, for six years at the front of an Indianapolis transformation that has seen the city use better bike infrastructure “to be resilient, to be sustainable, to be competitive and to beautiful.”

“Five years from now we’re going to look back and say, we really changed how we thought about transportation in America,” Roskowski said. “Yes, we’re all going to drive cars still. But there are other elements to transportation.”

Six focus cities

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Denver Auditor Blasts Plan to Widen I-70: “Ten Lanes Is Not an Option”

“Ten lanes is not an option. A doubling of the current width of I-70 through Denver is not acceptable.”

City Auditor Dennis Gallagher says CDOT's plan to widen I-70 ignores current trends in transportation. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/31437555@N00/5605571597##Jeffrey Beale/flickr##

City Auditor Dennis Gallagher says CDOT’s plan to widen I-70 ignores current trends in transportation. Photo: Jeffrey Beall/flickr

That’s how Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher began a letter [JPG and JPG] last week to the director of the Colorado DOT. “I can’t tell you how incensed I am that the state wants to expand I-70 to ten lanes through North Denver,” Gallagher said the next day on Facebook. “You should be too.”

The city has been studying options for replacing the 50-year-old viaduct for a decade. Gallagher’s preferred option is to reroute I-70 along I-270, though that plan would also involve road expansion. As it’s laid out here [PDF] by a community group called Globeville Elyria-Swansea LiveWell, the re-routing would widen I-270 from two lanes to five or six lanes in each direction. (However, it would happen on “relatively level, open, undeveloped land,” they say.) The projected cost of this expansion has dampened support for this proposal and even Gallagher admits “that is perhaps no longer a viable option.”

Gallagher’s second choice is the “city option,” which entails taking the highway below grade and covering it with an 800-foot-wide landscaped lid to reconnect the city, “making the neighborhoods real neighborhoods again.” The third option — which CDOT backs — would do that and also add two new tolled express lanes in each direction, resulting in a massive 10-lane highway. Here’s Gallagher’s brilliant explanation of his opposition to CDOT’s $1.8 billion plan:

In an era in which freeway vehicle traffic is dropping; environmental and social trends are moving people away from a reliance on cars and trucks for transportation; other cities are choosing to eliminate freeways from their urban core; Denver’s population, particularly our growing population of Millennials and Seniors, is choosing not to drive or even have a driver’s license, it makes no sense to me and is not good public policy to build a ten-lane freeway when it likely will never be needed, may in point of fact be obsolete sooner rather than later, is destructive to the neighborhoods, and a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

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It’s ON! Parking Madness 2014 Kicks Off With Chicago vs. Denver

parking_madness_2014

Are you ready for Parking Madness 2014, our second annual search for parking craters that have obliterated cities? You better be.

Last year, Tulsa took home the Golden Crater. In this year’s tournament, we broadened the field to accept entries from outside the United States. Perhaps not surprisingly, American parking craters still dominated the reader submissions, but one international contestant will be facing off this year: Calgary, Alberta. Canada’s first entrant is up against some truly gruesome competition.

Our first matchup is Chicago vs. Denver. It’s your job to decide which parking crater is the most awful, life-sapping blight on its city.

Here’s the evidence, beginning with Chicago:

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Green Lane Project Picks Six New Cities to Make Big Progress on Bikeways

Austin, Texas, built this beauty of a bike lane by the University of Texas campus while it was participating in round one of the Green Lane Project. Photo: The Green Lane Project

More than 100 cities applied for the second round of the Green Lane Project, the program that helps cities build better bike infrastructure, including protected lanes.

People for Bikes, which runs the program, announced its selections for round two today: Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.

“The selected cities have ambitious goals and a vision for bicycling supported by their elected officials and communities,” said Martha Roskowski of People for Bikes. “They are poised to get projects on the ground quickly and will serve as excellent examples for other interested cities.”

Several of this year’s choices already have good wins under their belts. Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Seattle had protected bike lanes on People for Bikes’ list of the country’s ten best new protected bike lanes last year. And Pittsburgh, with its star urbanist mayor, seems poised to make big strides.

Beginning in April, the selected cities will receive expert assistance, training, and support over a two year period to build safe, comfortable protected bike infrastructure.

During the first two years of the Green Lane Project, the number of protected bike lanes in the country nearly doubled from 80 to 142, People for Bikes reports. More than half of those new lanes were in its six first-round focus cities: San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Memphis, Austin, and Washington.

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Charlotte and Denver Join Urban Innovators at NACTO

The group that brought you the Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Urban Street Design Guide is expanding.

San Francisco MTA Director Ed Reiskin is the new president-elect at NACTO. Image: SFGate

The National Association of City Transportation Officials added Charlotte and Denver to its list of member cities this week, bringing the total to 18. In addition, NACTO has added Louisville, Kentucky, and Somerville, Massachusetts, to the list of 12 “affiliate members,” the organization announced today at its “Designing Cities” conference in Phoenix.

NACTO has served as a forum for cities to share best practices in designing safer, multi-modal streets, and its design guides have quickly become an important counterweight to the more hidebound, car-centric engineering guidance offered by the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials. Additional NACTO member cities include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

In addition to the new member cities, NACTO will have a new president. The organization recently elected San Francisco MTA Director Ed Reiskin to the post. Reiskin will replace New York City’s trailblazing Janette Sadik-Khan, who is rumored to be departing for the private sector at the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term this year.

Reiskin has been car-free since 1991. At the last NACTO conference, he told attendees, “The most cost-effective investment we can make in moving people is in bicycle infrastructure.”

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How Denver Repaired Its Epic Parking Crater

Downtown Denver June 1976. Image: Nick DeWolf via Flickr

The above photo is downtown Denver in 1976.

Not pretty is it? But Denver doesn’t look like that anymore. And that’s no accident.

Even though that picture is what inspired Streetsblog’s Parking Madness competition, Denver didn’t even make it past the first round in our hunt for the worst parking crater in an American downtown.

This is what this part of Denver looks like today:

For reference, point A on the map shows the Daniels and Fisher Tower, the tall spire you can see on the edge of the parking expanse in the 1976 photo.

In the 1990s, in response to the creeping cancer of surface parking, the Mile High City took action. The city changed its downtown zoning to eliminate surface parking as a use by right. So if you owned a building, you were welcome to tear it down, but you couldn’t park cars on the lot. All existing parking lots were grandfathered in.

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Parking Madness: Atlanta vs Denver

In the race to the bottom that is Parking Madness, Streetsblog’s Sweet 16-style tournament of terrible downtown parking craters, 10 cities have faced off so far.

But there are more, so many more awful parking wastelands in otherwise proud American cities. In this post, the match up is Atlanta versus Denver. Remember to cast your votes at the bottom.

Let’s start with Atlanta:

The most shameful thing about this asphalt field is that a MARTA rail station is smack dab in the middle of it. So much for transit-oriented development, huh? Atlanta transit advocate Ashley Robbins sent us this description:

One MARTA stop south of Five Points, the downtown epicenter of Atlanta, stands the Garnett station in a sea of underutilized parking. The Garnett plaza garden over the heavy rail and Greyhound stations, while being near the federal building, the Atlanta Municipal court, and the popular Castleberry Hill neighborhood, is surrounded with unkempt parking, abandoned buildings and is known for lurid activity, giving Garnett one of the worst reputations of any MARTA station.

There’s nothing quite as threatening as a darkened parking lot at night.

Meanwhile, on to Denver. Commenter Jack Shaner sent us this aerial photo of the northern edge of downtown in the Mile High City, in which you can see a collection of craters:

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