Colfax Avenue has long been a key east-west transportation route for Downtown Denver, Auraria Campus, Anschutz Medical Campus and nearly 50 schools — it is also a thriving community, with retail, nightlife and residential development creating a "Main Street" feel along one of the area's oldest, most historic streets. With population and business growth in the area expected to increase significantly in the next 20 years, there is an opportunity to reimagine how Colfax functions, looks and feels while accommodating an increasing need for enhanced mobility and safety along the corridor.
After years of studying East Colfax Avenue and gathering significant community input, the City and County of Denver is looking to implement center-running bus rapid transit (BRT) along the corridor, with a dedicated transit lane in each direction from Broadway to Yosemite. Rolling out BRT along one of Denver’s busiest corridors to move more people, more efficiently, is a key component of Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s Mobility Action Plan.
$55 million in funding for Colfax BRT is included in the Elevate Denver Bond Program approved by voters in 2017. Given that preliminary cost estimates for the full vision for East Colfax BRT are greater than $55M, the City’s path forward is to leverage the bond funding – and additional dollars from other sources – as match dollars for upcoming grant opportunities. Denver is currently developing a detailed project description to determine what local, regional, state and federal grant opportunities would be the best fit for the project
Goals of the East Colfax BRT project include:
Referring to typical timelines for large scale, federally-funded projects in Denver, we estimate it could take 5-8 years from launch to completion, starting the clock with procurement of a contractor for the NEPA and preliminary design process. Procurement of a contractor for preliminary design has not yet begun.
Voters also included $20M for pedestrian improvements on Colfax Avenue in the Elevate Denver Bond program. These funds will provide permanent improvements including medians, curb extensions, and enhanced crosswalks at key intersections and deliver streetscape improvements such as furniture, trees and lighting in certain business improvement districts (BID). The BIDs include West Colfax, Colfax BID, Bluebird BID, and Colfax-Mayfair BID. Construction of permanent civil and safety improvements on East Colfax will be linked to BRT project implementation.
With BRT implementation several years away, Denver is moving forward on near-term safety improvements at 12 intersections along East Colfax, utilizing Capital Improvement Program (CIP) dollars, not related to the bond. The intersections include:
Improvements will include the addition of paint, vertical elements such as bollards and signage that will serve to visually narrow the roadway at these locations, reduce vehicular exposure for crossing pedestrians at intersections, create pedestrian refuges, pull back parking at intersections, as needed, to provide greater visibility for turning vehicles and pedestrians, and slow turning speeds. At some intersections, leading pedestrian intervals will be added to signal timing and right turns on red will be restricted.
These near-term safety improvements will inform the future design of permanent improvements. Installation is anticipated in late 2019/early 2020.
Because pedestrian improvements on West Colfax are not tied to the Colfax BRT project, Denver is moving forward with improvements prioritizing safety needs from Sheridan to Irving. A preferred design based on public input and a process for prioritizing implementation are being developed. Further public involvement will take place at the end of summer 2019.
The study began in 2012, with an analysis of current and future needs for the corridor. Following six years of outreach and community input, a recommendation for center-running bus rapid transit (BRT) was presented in 2018. The project will require several years for design and environmental analysis, and to secure all necessary funding.
Opportunities for community participation will continue throughout project design.
Conceptual design for East Colfax Bus Rapid Transit identifies proposed station areas (PDF) where East Colfax intersects with:
Preliminary design plans for additional pedestrian crossings (PDF) at signalized intersections were also identified in 2018 conceptual designs, including where East Colfax intersects with:
See additional materials in the Project Archive
BRT Design Evolution (PDF)
Center-Running BRT Public Input Summary, July 2017–March 2018 (PDF)
Bus Rapid Transit on Colfax Avenue: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF - January 2019)
The Colfax Corridor Connections Community Task Force comprises individuals representing neighborhood organizations and business interests within the corridor. This group provides an important connection between the project team and the community and its input will help inform the process. The Community Task Force is also an important resource for sharing project information with the constituents they represent.
Each of the following organizations has been invited to participate in the Community Task Force program:
Denver Business Groups
Denver Neighborhood/Community Groups
Aurora Business Groups
Aurora Neighborhood/Community Groups
BRT on East Colfax Avenue presents an opportunity to reimagine how Denver’s main street looks, functions and feels.
The corridor is one of Denver’s busiest transportation networks for all modes of travel, especially transit. The bus routes serving East Colfax have the highest ridership of all RTD routes – more than 22,000 riders per weekday. Current bus service in the corridor is near capacity and even small service interruptions can result in passengers being left at stops to wait for the next bus.
The City is moving forward with BRT on Colfax because doing nothing is not an option. Over the next 20 years, the corridor is expected to experience 25% growth in the number of travelers, 67% growth in employment and 25% growth in population. Denver cannot continue to grow and create more people-friendly spaces without safely and efficiently moving more people through the East Colfax corridor.
BRT is a premium transit service with upgraded buses, enhanced stations and dedicated transit lanes wherever possible. Upgrades include recognizably branded buses, as well as low-floor and multi-door boarding features to make it easier and faster for all riders, especially those with special needs, to get on and off. Station amenities would feature real-time passenger information, off-bus ticketing, as well as shelter, safety and accessibility improvements.
The goal of Colfax Corridor Connections is to improve transit, overall mobility, safety and livability within the corridor now and for generations to come. Benefits of BRT on Colfax include, but are not limited to:
By repurposing one general traffic lane in each direction on Colfax between Broadway and Yosemite, all transit activity will occur within two center-running transit only lanes. Busy urban streets like Colfax are good candidates for dedicated transit lanes because the separation of buses and vehicles better organizes traffic flow and improves travel efficiency. Center transit lanes also reduce conflicts with parking and other curbside activities, while creating enhanced streetscaping opportunities and improving pedestrian safety by moving transit stations to the center.
The East Colfax BRT project has developed preferred BRT station locations as part of the Alternatives Analysis. These locations are viewed as crucial to the success of the project. However, through the Alternatives Analysis process, as well as outreach for the East and East Central Neighborhood Planning Initiative (NPI) efforts, a few locations/areas have been identified for consideration for future station changes/additions. They include:
The upcoming preliminary engineering and environmental phase will address these potential changes through the design process. The remainder of stations are considered to be final locations.
Managing vehicle turns across transit lanes is essential to successful BRT on Colfax. To maintain local access and improve safety, left turns will be allowed at signalized intersections only. Eliminating unprotected left turns significantly reduces potential conflicts with pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles. As more detailed design plans are developed, potential intersections will be identified where new traffic signals and U-turn facilities may be added to improve safety and local access.
Traffic congestion and diversion to adjacent streets occurs today and will increase with or without the project. Minor additional diversion to adjacent streets is projected due to BRT on Colfax and traffic impacts are expected to be limited to a few intersections. In order to safely keep vehicles and buses moving, a number of operational improvements will be made on Colfax and parallel roadways. These options include, but are not limited to: speed reduction and safety improvements (i.e., traffic calming), signal timing/optimization, extended or new turning lanes, and minimal capacity improvements through re-striping or minor curb/gutter relocation (all within existing right-of-way).
BRT would provide more efficient service for the current 15 and 15L routes. By consolidating portions of these routes with BRT service, transit riders’ overall travel times will be faster or maintained. While some riders may have to walk slightly farther to BRT stations, buses will arrive more frequently and predictably. Conceptual BRT stations are roughly ½ mile apart, so riders would have to walk no more than ¼ mile on Colfax to get to the bus. BRT also offers an easier boarding experience and provides opportunities for improved sidewalks, making it easier for people with mobility challenges to ride.
The final routing and stop locations of these routes will be further defined as the project moves forward. Ultimately, BRT would improve speed, reliability and the overall user experience of transit on East Colfax while still offering an RTD Local fare for the length of the service.
A number of other multi-modal transportation improvements are included as part of BRT on Colfax. As the project undergoes more detailed design, a package of supplemental mobility improvements will be finalized. These include bicycle/pedestrian facilities, signage/wayfinding, station access, connectivity with existing RTD services and more.
Specific changes to on-street parking will be identified as the project moves forward. Generally, some on-street parking spaces will be added by moving transit stations to the center of Colfax, while others will be eliminated – primarily near intersections adjacent to bus stops – to improve pedestrian access and safety. A full analysis of on-street parking and station configurations will be completed during the upcoming detailed design phase.
As the project moves forward, both local and federal funding opportunities for BRT on Colfax are being pursued. Based on available funding, a more detailed design and a project implementation schedule will be developed in 2019. Initial targets anticipate construction could begin as soon as 2022.
Public input is vital to making decisions that are in the best overall interest of the community. The project team will continue to implement a proactive public outreach program designed to be responsive to feedback from the community. Additional information will be available on this website.