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Funds OK’d for Three Components of Bus Rapid Transit Between Boulder and Longmont

December 1, 2018

Lafayette resident Quinn Miller gets on the BOLT bus to Longmont from the Boulder Downtown Station on Friday.

A regional government group took an initial step toward bringing a bus rapid transit service between Boulder and Longmont this week through funding three projects officials hope will decongest the Diagonal Highway and facilitate faster travel through the cities’ centers.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments — which includes members from dozens of Denver metro area municipal and county governments — awarded $8.15 million toward installing a bus bypass lane on two miles of the Diagonal, and bringing bus lane improvements to 28th and Coffman streets in Boulder and Longmont, respectively.

Traffic volumes on the Diagonal are projected to increase 25 percent from current levels by 2040, according to the governments group.

“We don’t think that continuing to just widen the general purpose lanes (of the Diagonal) is going to be a long-term solution. We need to provide mobility alternatives for people,” Boulder County Alternative Transportation Coordinator Scott McCarey said. “The focus of those three components is to give travel time priority to high-occupancy vehicles and transit.”

While each project is within officials’ vision of a full bus rapid transit service between the cities — which the Regional Transportation District named its top priority in a study — such service along the entire Diagonal corridor may still be years away and could arrive separately from the improvements funded this week.

Funding to implement the highly desired bus service along the entire Diagonal simultaneously with these projects would have been available had the Proposition 110 ballot initiative passed in November’s election, but its failure means officials will work to bring pieces of the service to the corridor as financing is secured, according to Ron Papsdorf, transportation planning director for the governments group.

“Buses will still be in mixed traffic in a lot of the corridor, but these three projects address a lot of the big bottlenecks in the corridor,” Papsdorf said.

The bus bypass lane will be laid along the Diagonal for a mile on both sides of the Colo. 52 intersection, where the rush-hour congestion is the worst and often extends for a mile in either direction, officials said.

Buses would be able to exclusively use the lane and cruise past stopped traffic to just in front of the light to wait for its green signal.

Extensions of that lane may or may not be built with any additional future plans to implement bus rapid transit service along the rest of the corridor, an idea the RTD is studying through soliciting public feedback on multiple route and infrastructure options .

“The issue is that the (full bus rapid transit) project evaluation in the plan that RTD is in the midst of completing is not done yet. These three projects can go forward with or without the plan, and still be good for bus service regardless of any other things that happen,” Longmont Transportation Planner Phil Greenwald said.

In Longmont along Coffman Street, officials plan to build center-running bus lanes between First and Ninth avenues for what they are calling the Coffman Street Busway.

Longmont officials have drafted a plan to implement 12-foot-wide bus-only lanes in either direction on Coffman without expanding the public right-of-way on the road. Regular vehicle travel lanes 11 feet wide would be on either side of the bus lanes, with 8-foot-wide parking lanes on each side of the street, and 5-foot-wide raised bike lanes on either side, plus 11-foot-wide sidewalks on either side.

The 28th Street improvements in Boulder consist of more than a half-mile of outside Business Access Transit lanes between Iris Avenue and Valmont Road that will be reserved for buses, as well as right-turning vehicles at approaches to intersections.

In road segments without driveways or intersections, the lanes will function as bus-only.

“Similar to the Coffman Street Busway, this is an operational improvement that will provide travel time and reliability benefits to regional and local transit vehicles by allowing them to bypass queuing in the general traffic lanes,” officials wrote in their grant application to the governments group.

The total cost of all three projects is expected to be $21 million, with $6.9 million going toward the Coffman Street Busway, $8.4 million going toward the Diagonal bus bypass lanes on either side of Colo. 52 and $5.7 million going toward the 28th Street improvements, the application shows.

Funding sources aside from the governments group include $5 million from RTD, another $5 million from the Denver Regional Council of Governments’ Boulder County subregion, $1.7 million from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s regional priority project funds, $1 million from the city of Boulder and $150,000 from Longmont.

Construction on the Boulder project is expected to start in 2021, and work on the Diagonal bypass lanes and Coffman Street Busway will begin in 2023, which is when the majority of the governments group’s subregional funding becomes available, the application indicates.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

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