The proposed expansion of Colorado State Highway 7 (CO 7) between Boulder and Brighton has been discussed for years and it appears, despite the slow burn of the project, its heartbeat continues steady and strong.
It has been a process that has required the City of Boulder as well as the teamwork of those towns east of the city to make this project move forward.
City of Boulder mayor Aaron Brockett said that the project, which is now well into the grant funding search stage said has begun and it’s all hands on deck in making this happen.
“We’re actually working regionally in partnership with the jurisdictions to our east, so Lafayette, Broomfield and Brighton (are also) funding for the entire corridor,” Brockett said. “Actually, Broomfield has been taking the lead on a lot of those discussions. So, we’ve gotten grants to plan for the changes along the corridor in the $5 million to $10 million range. We have gotten that preliminary funding to do designs for the future of the corridor, but we still need to secure significant additional funding to be able to build the entire corridor.”
Brockett estimated that the whole project will cost in the “nine-figure” range.
He added that the feedback he has received has been, “generally been received positively,” based on the public hearings held up until a few years ago.
Brockett noted that expansion could also lead to raised protected bike lanes and expanded pedestrian facilities. The 3-lane roads will stay the same, but some will become dedicated to the BAT system having mobility in facilitating those who will need the buses to commute.
“There’s been gradual increases in congestion along that corridor over the last few years and it will continue to get some additional congestion in the future,” Brockett said. “I’m excited about it. I think it’ll be a really positive step for mobility in our region between Boulder and points East. Things like this take many years to come together – for example, US 36 between Boulder and Denver was rebuilt. It was probably 15 to 20 years from when they first started working on it to when the project was finished. These regional transportation projects take a long time, but I’m confident that we’ll get there eventually.”
Broomfield Mayor Guyleen Castriotta noted that the grant process is a methodical one and sometimes is just a matter of getting through the queue.
“We seem to be getting more traction than we have in the last five years and I’ve been hearing complaints about the traffic backups on Colorado 7,” she said. “We have to kind of wait our turn with grant money. There’s a lot of residential growth happening … we’ve just been working on securing the funding and matching it – it’s about two years out, that’s what I’m told.”
Castriotta added Broomfield County is the state’s fastest growing – moving up 32 percent in population growth at the last census – and much is happening north along the Colorado 7 corridor.
“So obviously, we’re hearing complaints from the newer residents that are like, ‘two lanes aren’t enough,’” the Broomfield mayor noted. “The conversation’s been going on for years.”
Jean Sanson, Principal Transportation Planner for the City of Boulder, is pleased the vision has the inclusion of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) improvements and is supported by roadway, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements.
“As these plans move toward implementation, we expect to enhance safety for all travelers, increase access and comfort for all people walking and bicycling, and maintain vehicle travel times while also providing transit options that are convenient, comfortable and provide a travel time that is competitive to single-occupancy vehicles,” Sanson said. “Benefits will include greater mobility options to improve safety, health, air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, bringing Boulder and the region closer to our climate and transportation goals.”
Sanson said the project awaits words on “two major federal grant applications that were recently submitted,” and feels confident that both are strong in their presentation for funding.
“The Safe Streets and Roads for All grant would fund safety improvements along Arapahoe Avenue between 30th and 33rd streets,” Sanson said. “This segment of Arapahoe Avenue is lacking basic pedestrian infrastructure and has a high number of serious and fatal crashes involving people walking and biking.
“The Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) grant would reconstruct the aging Arapahoe bridges over Boulder Creek to better withstand flood events and improve overall resiliency throughout the corridor, which is particularly important because Arapahoe Avenue serves as a primary route to emergency services.”
Sanson said they expect to break ground next year on the East Arapahoe Multi-Use Path and Transit Stops Project.
“This project will fill in missing links in the multi-use path system and enhance bus stops along Arapahoe Avenue between 38th/Marine Street and Cherryvale Road,” Sanson said. “This project will enhance multimodal safety, access and connectivity. Importantly, it will also build infrastructure to support transit riders using a new efficient transit service that will begin operating in 2026.”
To review, the project is hoped to develop a corridor of local livability and multimodal regional access. This is due in large part to the attraction of the well-established downtown areas of Brighton, Lafayette and Boulder coupled with large areas of undeveloped parcels in unincorporated areas of Adams and Boulder Counties, Lafayette, Erie, Broomfield, Thornton and the east side of Brighton, according to Commuting Solutions.
It is anticipated that there will be more than 56,000 new residents and 38,000 new jobs along the corridor, which would lead to a 37 percent increase in traffic along an already congested corridor. This would also lead to 38,000 more potential jobs and an 8.5 to 9.8 projected increase in bus boardings.
This all led to the City of Boulder creating the East Arapahoe Transportation Plan – and the city council unanimously voting for it in 2018 – to address improvements to be made along the length of the corridor located in Boulder.
Tara Winer, a Boulder city councilwoman and member of the Colorado 7 expansion subcommittee also sees the positives in the project but emphasizes Brockett’s point that these things take time.
“It’s not 30 years away, but it’s not just a few years away,” she said. “We just need to make it easier for people to bike on their electric bikes to and from the suburbs that are going out. I believe more people would get on their bikes and do that particular bike route instead of driving cars bumper to bumper traffic on Arapahoe to their jobs. Sometimes I have to bike to city meetings. Right now, Broadway went from two lanes to one because of the construction at the hotel. I look at that traffic backed up, and I say, ‘You know what? I’m getting on my electric bike.’”
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime you could just get the funding and get it going. The project is crucial for getting our buses to be more frequent, to come more frequently, but also to be faster. Because right now it’s just slow going and people aren’t going to inconvenience themselves. We just have to make it easy for people to want to do these things.”