That pretty much summarizes the disparate points of view expressed at an often clamorous Nov. 18 public forum designed to garner feedback on a plan to build a pedestrian bridge across I-25, to …
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That pretty much summarizes the disparate points of view expressed at an often clamorous Nov. 18 public forum designed to garner feedback on a plan to build a pedestrian bridge across I-25, to connect the neighborhoods north of the highway with the Colorado Center retail/office development (Dave & Buster’s, etc.) and the adjacent Colorado Light Rail Station to the south, at E. Evans Ave.
Senior City Planner Emily Snyder told the 100 or so gathered at Dave & Buster’s that a bicycle/pedestrian connection across the interstate had first been identified as a priority back in 1999 as part of the Environmental Impact Statement prepared in advance of the T-REX reconstruction of the southeast I-25 corridor. The $8 million bridge would be funded by $4 million in 2011 Federal Transportation Improvement funds, as well as $4 million set aside from Denver’s 2010 Capital Improvements budget.
HNTB, design consultants on the project, has recommended a 309-foot, single-span bridge stretching from the intersection of Jewell Ave. and S. Cherry St., across the highway to a landing by Colorado Center Dr. and Buchtel Blvd., across from the rail station parking lot.
Residents were divided on the need to spend $8 million on the project, when there is sidewalk access to Colorado Center from both Evans Ave. and Colorado Blvd. Diane Wolta, president of the Virginia Village/Ellis Community Association, said, “It’s just not cost effective to build this bridge to reach 600 homes. They (Colorado Center) want us to subsidize their project. This is why (our government) is out of money.”
John Hayden is director of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. He urged opponents to “look beyond S. Cherry St. This is about regional connectivity. It’s hard to cross I-25. There are sidewalks (on Evans and Colorado), but the crossings at the highway ramps are dangerous – there are too many conflict points.”
Department of Public Works spokesperson Ann Williams told The Profile, “(The bridge) will reduce walking distance (to Colorado Center) by more than 2/3 of a mile and eliminates the need to cross the interchanges of Colorado and Evans with I-25. It connects bicyclists to the bike route system via an east-west route on Jewell Ave. and to a key north-south route on Dahlia St., which is two blocks from the bridge.
“The project has been well-received in the bicycle community, the disabled community and the adjacent commercial property owners.”
One group with whom the project has definitely not been well-received are residents living along S. Cherry St., north of the interstate. The bridge as currently drawn shows a 350-foot-long approach ramp running down the west side of the 1900 block of S. Cherry St. Residents are outraged at the potential visual imposition outside their windows, as well as the loss of nearly 30 parking spaces on the street.
Shannon Foraker lives immediately across Cherry St. from the proposed ramp location, and is among those in staunch opposition to the bridge. “Who’s going to use the bridge? I can tell you that women are not going to use it at night,” she stated.
“The population density of the area doesn’t warrant the cost. You already have sidewalks and crossings from Evans Ave. and Colorado Blvd. with buttons for safe passage. Plus, there’s already bus service from S. Cherry St. to Colorado Center.”
Rob Berg echoes Foraker’s sentiments, “Most of Colorado Center is vacant now except for Dave & Buster’s and the (movie) theater,” he stated. “Why has there been no study on how many will actually use (the bridge)? It’s an extremely expensive project with little gain.”
After receiving numerous complaints about the Cherry St. ramp, District 6 City Councilman Charlie Brown asked HNTB to come up with several alternatives to the Cherry St. ramp, including two alternate ramp designs, eliminating it altogether, and constructing an elevator to get bikes and pedestrians up to the main span.
“They were getting ready to ram this through,” Brown told The Profile. “And understandably, some people were real upset. Nobody wants a 350-foot ramp in front of their property.”
“Anything but the elevator is just plain ugly,” said Wolta. While preferring the elevator among the alternatives offered, Foraker remains opposed to the project, saying, “I just can’t see the justification for such irresponsible spending at this point in time.”
Realtor Diane Davis urged the city to consider how building the bridge would impact real estate sales in the area. “There will be a 15-month hold on sales,” she said. “Who wants to buy a residence with that type of construction going on outside your door?”
Public Works’ Williams said that safety considerations indicate the bridge is needed. “For the 10-year period from Jan. 1, 2001, to Jan. 1, 2011, there were a total of four accidents,” she stated. “Two pedestrian and two bicycle. One (of the pedestrian accidents) resulted in a fatality – at the interchange of I-25 and Colorado Blvd.
“There were no pedestrian and bicycle accidents at the interchange of I-25 and Evans Ave.,” Williams added, but “in addition to the crashes at the (Colorado Blvd.) interchanges, there were additional accidents along the service corridors of Colorado Blvd. and Evans Ave. Along Colorado Blvd., the service corridor is defined from Mexico Ave. to Buchtel Blvd. Including the accidents at the I-25 interchange, there were 16 accidents – nine pedestrian and seven bike accidents – for that corridor.
“Along Evans Ave., the service corridor is defined from Dahlia St. to Birch St. There were 12 pedestrian and zero bicycle accidents for the Evans service corridor.”
For project details, including visuals of the Nov. 18 presentation, visit DenverGov.org, and enter “I-25 pedestrian bridge” in the search block at the top of the page.
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