In Wheat Ridge, one busy corridor might be getting a much needed makeover.
Last October, Wheat Ridge City Council began talks to spruce up Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT’s) right of way zones on the west side of Youngfield Street between 32nd and 40th avenues.
This strip of land today can be described as underutilized at best, and an eyesore at worst. Jersey barriers keep I-70 traffic off of the muddy swale, and erosion control blankets serve as receptacles for litter from careless drivers. Tire marks and weeds are among the highlights of this half-mile stretch of land.
Urban Renewal Authority funds to the tune of $5 million have been set aside for this blighted land, and on May 1, Lead Project Manager Jordan Jefferies gave council a summary and an update on Youngfield’s forthcoming beautification.
The first step of this aesthetic project was to select the specific areas that need the most attention. The five key areas of focus for this project were determined to be (from south to north):
• The eastbound I-70 offramp, which would benefit from improved drainage facilities and landscaping, as well as potential street improvements and monument/tower installations
• The intersection of 32nd and Youngfield – bridge treatments, fencing and another possible location for a monument
• The eastbound I-70 onramp, where tire tracks would be replaced with landscaping
• Between the onramp and 40th Avenue – a larger stretch with potential for fencing and a major landscaping project
• The 40th Avenue underpass, which will be seeing more traffic as the hospital in the new Clear Creek development is set to open next year.
Next, the city had to come up with a theme for the project. After a visioning workshop with city stakeholders, Jefferies and his team brought four potential themes to a handful of Wheat Ridge citizens. A public engagement event at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center in March and an online survey found the most popular theme to be “Plains 2 Peaks” – a nod to Wheat Ridge’s flat topography at the foot of the Rockies. Visuals from “Sowing Happiness,” the runner-up theme and an acknowledgement of the city’s farming history, will also be incorporated.
The preliminary design phase of this project is expected to be completed in June, and Jefferies was hopeful for completed draft plans in mid-May. An ongoing process for acquiring environmental clearances from CDOT will conclude sometime this fall, at which point implementation preparation should be complete. Residents can expect to see construction beginning in early 2024 and ending around a year later.
Council seemed satisfied with Jefferies’ quick answers to their few questions. He clarified that no plan exists to close lanes during these various construction projects, and that he expects CDOT to be amenable to the city’s plans for these I-70 right-of-ways. Though council members noted that CDOT can be notoriously difficult to work with, Jefferies reassured them that the city’s engineering partner for this job, David Evans and Associates, has plenty of experience working alongside the state. Council also dug into who will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep; the answer is yet to be determined, but the task will most likely fall on Wheat Ridge city employees.
Jefferies also introduced a separate project to improve bike lanes on 32nd Avenue – something to keep an eye out for in the coming months.
As western Wheat Ridge continues to develop, structural and creative innovations have been long overdue. With the Youngfield beautification project, the city will undoubtedly deliver a shinier first impression for visitors coming from I-70.
FIVE SPECIFIC AREAS OF YOUNGFIELD STREET NEEDING THE MOST ATTENTION are the focus of an in-progress beautification project; Lead Project Manager Jordan Jefferies gave Wheat Ridge City Council a summary and an update – including this graphic – at a May 1 study session. COURTESY CITY OF WHEAT RIDGE