By Mike McKibbin
Perhaps heeding the words and pleas from affected residents, Wheat Ridge City Council has decided against a proposed street extension project. It would have been included in the city’s Wheat Ridge/Ward light rail station planning area, one of four projects in the city’s “Investing 4 the Future” $12 million bond program, funded by a voter-approved, temporary half-cent sales and use tax rate hike.
Mark Westberg, the city’s project supervisor, said at a Nov. 19 city council study session the area focused on for improvements is generally on 52nd Avenue east from Ward Road to Tabor Street, and between Ridge and Ward roads. The area is unique, with boundaries of Wheat Ridge, Arvada and Jefferson County all intersecting nearby. About six to seven projects are at various stages of development in the area, spurred on by the Ward station and its 290 parking spaces, Westberg noted.
Westberg asked the council if they wanted the city to extend 52nd east of Tabor to the proposed Haskins Station project in Arvada. The Haskins project has received preliminary approval from Arvada City Council for 477 units of various housing types. The 52nd road extension would eventually connect to 54th Avenue in Arvada and serve as a collector street in both jurisdictions.
Jeffrey Burg lives at the corner of 52nd and Swadley Street and urged council against negatively impacting his neighborhood “by shoehorning 3,000-plus cars a day down a new expressway from Ward along 52nd, through the middle of an established residential neighborhood.”
His wife, Connie Burg, said she “shouldn’t be forced to give up my property and quality of life because the city of Wheat Ridge failed to properly oversee (Regional Transportation District) designs and get (Colorado Department of Transportation) approvals.”
Gary Duncan of Arvada called traffic in the area a “nightmare.”
“There are at least three projects in Arvada and Wheat Ridge that all feed into Ward Road,” he noted. “If my math is right, there will be over 2,700 multi-family units planned along Ridge Road from Ward to 52nd and Kipling. The developers are in control. We’re already seeing people cut through our streets and we have no sidewalks.”
In a memo to council, Wheat Ridge staff called the 52nd extension a critical street connection. A traffic study to further demonstrate the need for the connection was underway.
CDOT denied a city request for a street light at Ward and Ridge roads because it would be too close to the existing light at 52nd and Ward, Westberg added.
Without the 52nd extension, staff was concerned local streets in neighborhoods between Tabor and Simms would be adversely impacted by traffic traveling west on Ridge Road using Swadley and Simms to access 52nd and reach the traffic signal at Ward.
Councilman Larry Mathews said he was “amazed” at the billions of dollars spent getting the G Line from downtown Denver to Wheat Ridge and Arvada, but route vehicle traffic from the Ward station parking lot through existing neighborhoods.
“It baffles me how they could proceed on the assumption that going through a neighborhood to get rid of their traffic will be a viable option,” Mathews added.
Councilman George Pond said he did not want the city to extend 52nd at this time.
“The traffic patterns are all pretty speculative right now,” he noted. “Once we see more development happen there, I think we’ll have a better idea which options are the best.”
Westberg warned if 52nd was not extended, the added traffic from the light rail station and housing projects either proposed or underway could travel over local streets.
“An extension would impact houses on 52nd, but not the surrounding streets,” he said.
Mathews said Arvada should think how development in their city affects Wheat Ridge when it is close to common borders.
Right-of-way To Be Sought For Other Projects
Several of the city Ward station area projects will require the acquisition of right-of-way (ROW) or easements to allow completion, according to the memo. The existing ROW for 52nd east of Tabor is narrow — 35 feet wide — to Simms and narrows to 5 feet east of Simms. The proposed street section has been kept to the minimum width possible at around 40 feet, the memo noted.
Between Tabor and Simms, around four to eight feet of additional ROW is needed. City staff proposed acquiring a few feet from three properties on the north side of 52nd. East of Simms, there is also some dispute regarding the ownership and/or use of 30 feet of property that was previously city ROW. The city attorney believed that issue could be resolved during the ROW acquisition process, according to the memo.
Westberg stated the city would condemn property only for needed right-of-way, and only after negotiations fail and city council approves the move.
To help improve Ridge Road pedestrian and bicycle access, a 300-foot-long sidewalk gap west of Parfet Street was proposed to be included with the Ward Station projects. However, Westberg told council at their Dec. 10 meeting that 2E funds cannot be spent on this project, so it will be proposed for the 2019 capital projects budget.
Council approved a $72,139 contract with HDR of Denver for ROW acquisition for five properties along Ridge Road.
Westberg said the next steps for the overall project would be to finalize an agreement with Jefferson County and Arvada on cost-sharing for the road improvements in December and January 2019; conduct public outreach and prepare for ROW acquisition in January and February, including meeting with up to five small groups of property owners next to each street, host a public meeting with the county and Arvada to present preliminary plans to the public; decide street width in February; acquire ROW between March and May; prepare construction plans by April; award a construction contract by July; begin work in August and finish it in the spring of 2020.