Some six months in, Boulder making progress on Core Arterial Network

·4 min read

Jul. 25—About six months after the Boulder City Council directed the city's transportation department to focus its efforts on the busiest streets where the most crashes occur, city staff already have made progress with its plan to build an interconnected transportation system in Boulder.

That's at least in part due to the fact that work on the Core Arterial Network, or CAN, is complementary to what's previously been outlined in Boulder's transportation master plan, Valerie Watson, transportation planning division manager, shared in Thursday's City Council meeting.

"The beauty of the concept that City Council has directed us to pursue is that it complements that work and focuses investment so that almost every corner of the city is within walking or biking distance of a network that will take you almost anywhere within the city and beyond," she said.

Earlier this year, the City Council identified 13 individual corridors to prioritize. The arterial streets, some of the busiest roadways in Boulder, are where 67% of serious or fatal crashes in Boulder occur, with 44% occurring specifically within areas included in the core arterial network work plan.

Additionally, some 63% of Boulder residents live within a half-mile, or walking distance, of a CAN work plan corridor as well as 71% of Boulder jobs and 75% of the total average daily number of people getting on or off a bus in Boulder.

In Boulder, there are local and regional transit service options as well as more than 300 miles of bikeways, including 73 miles of multi-use paths and nearly 90 bicycle and pedestrian underpasses. The CAN will enhance connections within this network, making it easier for people to choose non-vehicular forms of travel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The concept is somewhat unique in that it's not one project or a plan that will sit on a shelf, Watson noted.

"Rather it's an approach to maximizing and focusing our limited resources to where they can have the most impact for Boulder and the planet," she said.

Generally, the goal is to ensure people can find a connected route to get around, no matter how they plan on traveling.

"Our busiest streets connect us to an array of day-to-day destinations," Watson said. "They're a critical piece of the overall mobility network yet we don't often connect the dots with our various projects."

In order to pay for the initial design work on its first priority corridors — Baseline Road, Iris Avenue and Folsom Street — the city has reallocated about $1.2 million from other projects.

Boulder will delay the next update of its transportation master plan and indefinitely pause its neighborhood speed management and GreenStreets programs, Watson said. These programs were selected because they include neighborhoods, or local streets where less severe crashes occur.

The city is currently initiating design and community engagement for Baseline, an east-west corridor from 30th Street to Foothills Parkway that connects residents, students and a bus route in east Boulder.

Within a half mile of Baseline Road, there more than 73 community assets, which include parks, grocery stores, bus stops, schools and libraries.

Phase one will incorporate street design upgrades and safety improvements, such as adding in physical protection to the bicycle lanes, into annual pavement resurfacing work.

Design for the project has yet to occur, in part because the city is taking a new approach. Instead of jumping in and presenting design ideas for various projects, Boulder is hoping to conduct more contextual conversations that can inform the project design process.

Generally, the Council did not provide much feedback in Thursday's meeting, aside from thanking staff for its work and expressing gratitude for how quickly it is moving forward.

"To see this take shape is really exciting," Councilmember Matt Benjamin said.

Considering transportation work can take a while, Councilmember Nicole Speer questioned what it might look like as members transition on and off the City Council.

"This will be ongoing for many years to come," she said.

Interim Director of Transportation and Mobility Natalie Stiffler noted that many of the projects are ones Boulder already prioritized and are all encouraged as part of Boulder's transportation master plan.

"Council can feel confident that, from a policy standpoint, it's baked into the transportation master plan," she said.