In October 2011, the Wheat Ridge City Council voted to approve the “38th Avenue Corridor Plan,” a multi-phase strategy employing redevelopment and revitalization of the city’s core retail corridor over the next eighteen years.
The plan divides the corridor into multiple sub-districts, including designated residential and commercial areas connected by pedestrian-friendly walkways and other alternative forms of transportation.
A key to promoting the non-motor vehicle “mobility” within the area is the use of a so-called “road diet” that would see the corridor’s 4 or 5 lane sections reduced to three lanes, with the creation of on-street parking and “amenity zones.”
“A key plan recommendation is to pursue a “road diet” for the majority of the corridor. This entails removing one eastbound and westbound lane on each side of the street. The road diet would result in a 3-lane section with one thru-lane in each direction and a center turn lane down the middle of the street. In some areas, the road diet would also create room for one lane of on-street parking. A detailed traffic analysis demonstrated that the proposed 3-lane section would have very minimal impact on traffic flow along the street, even with the assumption that the number of cars utilizing 38th Avenue will increase in coming decades.”
While increasing pedestrian-friendly options is a primary goal, the plan anticipates other benefits, including reduced traffic speeds, increased safety, and economic benefits like new business attraction.
The plan took a comprehensive view of the corridor’s demographics, zoning, retail, and residential concentration. The City identified four distinct sub-districts and concluded that the key to accessibility would start with restricting the number of lanes along 38th Avenue, and cited the underutilization of capacity as part of its reasoning:
The concept to remove a lane of thru-traffic in each direction (westbound and eastbound) on 38th Avenue between Sheridan and Wadsworth Boulevards was initially recommended in the Community Revitalization Partnership (CRP) Study completed for Wheat Ridge 2020 in 2010. The CRP report notes that the street has enough lanes to carry about 24,000 cars per day, but actually only carries around 17,000 cars per day. Given this surplus capacity, the report suggests redesigning the street to remove one thru-lane on each side of the street, retaining a center turn lane in the middle of the street.
Community participants were asked to rank their preferred improvements based on “road diet” restrictions, and called for a hybrid sidewalk/“amenity zone” over on-street parking or new or expanded bike lanes.
The Wheat Ridge Neighborhood Gazette points out that among the first signs of the avenue’s redevelopment will be the installation of angled parking—with a twist:
“As part of the changes, about three blocks near Teller and High Court (on the south side of W. 38th) will have angled parking. Drivers are asked to back-in to these spaces and then pull out head first. The maneuver hopes to provide better visibility, a quicker entry into traffic and is simpler than parallel parking. Drivers on 38th Ave. are also asked to yield to cars accessing these spots.”
As for anticipating confusion, “parking ambassadors” will be on hand to ease transition, according to the Gazette.
Cost estimates are not certain, as the project evolves by the year 2030. Initial restriping costs should remain low—in the tens of thousands—and could be entirely funded by the City’s Capital Improvement Plan budget. Other retrofitting could cost hundreds of thousands.
But permanent redevelopment, including new sidewalks and the build out of amenity zones and new planters could drive up the cost, with the “Main Street” sub-district’s “road diet” costing between $3.3-4.5 million.
The plan calls for identifying potential funding sources that include tapping “federal and state transportation dollars, the formation of a special district, tax increment financing (TIF), and/or local bunds funded by a temporary increase in sales or property tax.”
The sale of revenue bonds would require voter approval.