Safer Main Streets in the Denver Metro area

Colorado Department of Transportation reimagines urban arterials through several grant programs

Presley Fowler / July 19, 2021 / 4 minute read
Revitalizing Main Streets projects in Boulder
Revitalizing Main Streets projects in Boulder. The concrete barriers are a part of the infrastructure upgrades to better serve the need for expanded outdoor dining and walkability areas along Pearl Street in Boulder.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in collaboration with its planning partners at the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) developed the Safer Main Streets Initiative in 2020—a program to support infrastructure projects that improve safety and accessibility along busy urban arterials, also known as non-freeway corridors, in the Denver Metro area. 

The program focuses on a transportation system that safely accommodates all modes of travel, especially for vulnerable users who depend on a reliable urban street network—such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, transit users, the elderly, and those with disabilities— through practical, cost effective transportation projects that can be delivered quickly. 

The Safer Main Streets Initiative started in July 2020 with a call-out to local government agencies in the Denver Metro area to submit their best and most innovative solutions that would reduce fatal and serious injury crashes, support all modes of travel, and improve access to opportunity and mobility for residents of all ages, incomes, and abilities. 

To prepare localities for submitting Safer Main Streets grant applications, CDOT and DRCOG held a pre-application workshop to discuss the program goals, funding, project eligibility, and available resources such as crash data and mapping tools. The workshop also helped the potential applicants generate project ideas as a wide variety of examples were shared including sidewalks, crossings, pedestrian safety enhancements, traffic calming and speed reduction measures, improved lighting, improved access to transit, technology-driven innovations, and more. 

parklets along Frisco's Main Street
Parklets along Frisco's Main Street as part of the Revitalizing Main Streets projects.

Applications were evaluated and scored based on the following criteria:

  1. Safety: Does the project address a safety need?
  2. Transit and enhanced mobility: How will the project improve safe and multimodal mobility for vulnerable users or improve safe transit access or reliability?
  3. Project readiness: Can the project meet the delivery requirements of June 1, 2024? 
  4. Public support and local funding match
  5. Other considerations such as innovative technology and cost effectiveness

Out of the 46 submissions and following an extensive review process between CDOT and DRCOG, 34 transportation projects worth close to $76 million were awarded in the Denver and Boulder, Colorado regions. The selected projects include a wide variety of low-cost, high-impact solutions and innovations. These investments will make local communities more vibrant for healthy active transportation at a time when the economic vitality of downtowns is especially important. Here is a broad look at what is to come from the selected projects:

  • Traffic signal upgrades including better signage and the addition of protected left turns
  • Safer pedestrian and cyclist access such as adding separated bike lanes and pavement markings and creating refuge islands so pedestrians have a safe place to wait with better protection from traffic and a reduced distance when crossing a busy roadway
  • Intersection improvements such as widening shoulders and improved striping
  • Addressing connectivity issues such as building new sidewalks where there are sections missing so people can safely access transit stops 
  • Better pedestrian visibility such as adding a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) signal for safer crossing

All Safer Main Streets projects have a construction completion requirement of no later than June 2024, and as of July 2021 most of the projects are still in the early phases of the project life cycle. You can read about each of the projects on the Safer Main Streets Initiative website by clicking on the project fact sheets button. 

Governor Jared Polis signing the SB-260 bill
Governor Jared Polis signing SB-260—Sustainability Of The Transportation System.

Around the same time the Safer Main Streets Initiative began, a statewide CDOT grant program was created as a part of Colorado’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan called Revitalizing Main Streets. The Revitalizing Main Streets grant program similarly supports local communities as they find innovative ways to reuse public spaces while improving multimodal safety and accessibility along urban arterials. While the program was originally created in an effort to mitigate the negative economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, it was quickly realized as an essential resource to help communities make infrastructure improvements to keep downtown areas dynamic and vibrant as economic recovery and resurgence continues. Due to this, the expansion of this popular grant program was made possible through a $30 million allocation from Colorado’s state legislature in March 2021, which created two separate grant opportunities for both larger and smaller transportation-related projects that improve safety and yield long-term benefits to community main streets across the state of Colorado

Furthermore, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 260, Sustainability Of The Transportation System, into law on June 17, 2021. Expanding the Revitalizing Main Streets Grant Program into the future is one of many pieces of this comprehensive funding package. CDOT is incredibly grateful for the high level of support for this program. You can learn more about SB 260 at this link. 

The Revitalizing Main Streets grant awards have surpassed 100 projects statewide as of July 2021, and the list is growing each week. Awarded projects span the entire state, from Denver and Boulder, to Hugo and Limon, to Frisco and Rifle. Highlights include numerous projects facilitating safe pedestrian access to outdoor dining, improved lighting, sidewalk repairs, incorporating “parklets” into streetscapes, and much more. A full list of projects is available on the Revitalizing Main Streets website.

Together, the Safer Main Streets and Revitalizing Main Streets grant programs at CDOT are reimagining urban arterials and community-focused downtowns where people work, dine, and shop to create safe access to opportunity and mobility for residents of all ages, incomes, and abilities across the state of Colorado.

About the Author

Fowler is Deputy Communications Manager and Revitalizing Main Streets Communications Lead with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

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