Driving You Crazy: Can the traffic lights on Colorado Boulevard north of I-25 be timed better?

Traffic only moves half a block for every light
Posted at 5:48 AM, May 01, 2018

Keith from Denver writes, “Hi Jayson – what's driving me crazy?  The fact that the traffic lights on Colorado Boulevard north of I-25 are so badly timed, especially between I-25 and Colfax. It backs traffic up both ways so badly when the only forward progress you can make at a green light is barely half a block because the next light is red and traffic is stacked up as a result of it.  If CDOT would re-time the lights to allow bigger blocks of cars to go more than 1 light at a time, it would improve traffic flow and reduce backups and irritation.”

While CDOT is in charge of maintaining Colorado Blvd, also known as Colorado Highway 2, the City of Denver takes the lead when it comes to the timing of the traffic lights.

Heather Burke with Denver Public Works tells me they retime traffic signals along major corridors, like Colorado Boulevard, every three years or so. “The timing of the signals currently along Colorado Blvd. are built to anticipate traffic and formulate the best possible progression. The other thing to keep in mind, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic along Colorado Blvd., which is a very long corridor to cross on foot. Denver Public Works has timed the traffic signals along Colorado Blvd., so pedestrians have enough time to cross safely,” Burke says. 

Burke’s statement is in line with Denver Public Works recent announcement where they plan to re-time 211 traffic signals around the city to prioritize people on foot and on bikes. Transit signals in Downtown Denver will also be looked at to make it easier for people to catch the light rail. Public Works says it will make observations for about a year and implement changes after the data has been analyzed.

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Burke tells me, “Per federal requirements, we’re giving people more time to cross the street, as studies have found Americans are walking more slowly than we used to!”

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the length of time the walk signal allows pedestrians to cross is up to each individual city. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways only required the clearance time to be as long as needed for the pedestrian to reach the center of the farthest traveled lane.

They calculate that the average walking speed is 4 feet per second. The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities recommended using the figure of 3 feet per second. Other studies suggest using 3.5 feet per second as the average pedestrian speed but also suggests that a slower walking speed should be used in areas where there is a heavy concentration of elderly persons or children.

That being said, it is about 107 feet from curb to curb across Colorado Blvd at the busy intersection of Florida. It is 118 feet at Colorado and Mexico. With the average 3.5 feet per second calculation, the walk sign should be on for 31 seconds at Florida and 34 seconds at Mexico. When you are waiting on a jam packed Colorado Blvd, that 30 seconds can feel like 20 minutes. 

Denver Public Works just recently adjusted the signals on southbound York Street between 18th Ave and 6th Ave giving pedestrians 10 additional seconds to cross the street. That additional time could costs drivers an extra minute and a half on just that section of road if they caught every red light.

I’ve heard from neighbors just off Colorado Blvd that they are already concerned with the increase in traffic in the area and say if the timing of the lights is changed to stop traffic longer than now, more drivers will seek less traveled side roads and avoid Colorado Blvd. all together.

Only time will tell how the traffic patterns will change in the coming years when Denver Public Works eventually retimes the lights on Colorado Blvd.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Podbean