Proposed entrance to CU Conference Center poses danger to people walking and riding

Dear members of the City Council

Summary:

  • The development of the CU Conference Center and Hotel will make the intersection of Grandview and the Broadway multi-use path extremely hazardous for people walking and biking by introducing hundreds of daily vehicle movements across the path.
  • The proposed intersection design will not solve the safety problem, will be very expensive, and will replace existing green space with an additional street lane.
  • Community Cycles proposes instead closing Grandview at Broadway to non-emergency motor vehicles. This solution will eliminate the possibility of crashes, cost vastly less, and preserve green space.
  • We ask Council to direct the Planning Board and Transportation Advisory Boards to promptly review the design and provide a recommendation to Staff.

We are writing to draw your attention to a significant bicycle and pedestrian safety issue with the current plans for the Broadway and Grandview intersection associated with the new CU Conference Center and Hotel. We are requesting a safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly solution than the one being proposed. We believe that the Planning and Transportation Advisory Boards should be given an opportunity to provide input on the street design.

We first discussed this issue with city staff in 2020. In April 2022, we presented verbal testimony to Council on this issue. Following that testimony, we heard from Edward Stafford, the Development Review manager for the City. The reconstruction plans for the Grandview intersection as described by Mr. Stafford (included below) will not alleviate the heightened risks to cyclists and pedestrians by the increased traffic, and by adding an extra vehicle turn lane the plans run counter to the City’s climate goals and Vision Zero guidance. The current plan is to WIDEN Broadway by adding a turn lane, which would only encourage more vehicle crossings of this dangerous intersection. Widening the street is also completely counter to our city’s TMP, climate, walkability, and water management goals. 

This intersection crosses a busy multi-use path (MUP) that is one of the main north/south bike routes in Boulder and is on a steep slope (the Hill). Allowing access to the new conference center and hotel via Grandview Ave. poses a substantial threat to cyclists and pedestrians for marginal benefit to drivers. To reiterate some of the specific dangers of this intersection:

  • The MUP along Broadway has a very steep gradient at this location, descending from the Hill toward Boulder Creek. Cyclists will easily reach (and, frankly, exceed) the 15 mph speed limit for the path, increasing the risk of serious injury in the event of collision.
  • It is a hotel, so most drivers will be from out of town, and are probably not used to looking for bicyclists and pedestrians. 
  • The sight-lines at this location are poor because the crossing is at sharp angle for northbound cars entering and exiting Grandview. Drivers will need to pull into the MUP to see. 
  • Drivers turning left onto the site from southbound Broadway will be looking primarily at the heavy car/bus traffic coming down Broadway and not expecting bicycle/pedestrian traffic on the MUP.

With the additional right turn lane on Broadway, drivers will be invited to turn right on Grandview, rather than being discouraged. The raised crossing and “pork chop” design will not alleviate the conflict caused by drivers exiting the site by turning right from Grandview to Broadway since those vehicles will pull out and block the MUP to see traffic coming down the hill. 

As mentioned in our original letter, the steep gradient at this section of the MUP makes almost any interaction between cyclists and vehicles potentially dangerous. Given the increased traffic caused by allowing access to a multi-hundred-stall hotel parking garage here, we can think of no design for this intersection that would make it safe for cyclists and pedestrians. The current plan would create a foreseeable risk of serious injury or death on a high-value MUP that would  inevitably have to be remedied. Moreover, this is a perverse outcome when the rationale for placing the hotel and conference center at this location is its proximity to walking destinations, high-frequency public transit, and bike infrastructure, precisely the place where the needs of these users should be truly prioritized.

The only solution consistent with Vision Zero goals is to use 13th and University as the only motor vehicle access to the site. University and Broadway is controlled by a signal, which makes for much safer interactions between cars, bikes, and pedestrians. Grandview should be limited to bikes, pedestrians, and emergency use vehicles. This would appear to be fully consistent with the MOA, since it does not attempt to restrict CU’s development of the Conference Center itself. 

To sum up, our proposal:

  • Completely eliminates conflicts at this dangerous intersection,
  • Could be implemented at low cost with signs and some flexible posts,
  • Preserves existing green space, and
  • Eliminates the danger of vehicles trying to slow or stop on the Broadway hill when it is snowy.

By contrast, the current plan:

  • Increases the danger of car-bike and car-ped crashes at this location by introducing hundreds or thousands of daily vehicle crossings of the MUP at Grandview,
  • Requires expensive roadway expansion and reconstruction,
  • Eliminates existing mature trees and reduces landscaping, and
  • Encourages access to the Conference Center on a steep slope that could be treacherous in snowy conditions.

We urge the Council to promptly address this issue. One approach might be to ask the Planning and Transportation Advisory Boards to promptly review the proposal and provide guidance to Staff and CU. We anticipate these boards will advise not widening Broadway and eliminating public access to the hotel/conference site at Grandview and Broadway. To do less would be completely inconsistent with our Vision Zero, TMP, climate, and walkability goals. 

Sincerely,

The Community Cycles Advocacy Committee

 

From: Stafford, Edward <StaffordE@bouldercolorado.gov>

Date: Tue, Apr 26, 2022, 1:31 PM

Subject: [BoulderCouncilHotline] Public Comments about Grandview and the CU Hotel/Conference Center

To: HOTLINE <HOTLINE@bouldercolorado.gov>

During public comment at the April 19 city council meeting concerns were raised about impacts from the CU Hotel/Conference center on the Broadway multi-use path crossing with Grandview and council asked staff for an update and any review about this concern.

Over the past several years the city collaborated with CU in the selection of the current site for the CU Conference Center and Hotel.  This location was selected due to its’ proximity to the University Hill Commercial District, the downtown area, and the Civic Area.  The location also provides convenient access to transit routes.  As a result, the city executed a Memorandum of Agreement with CU in April 2020, which acknowledged that the city has limited authority over the project as CU is not subject to the city’s land use regulations. Staff from multiple city departments have been working to implements the MOA, including review the project’s impact to public infrastructure.   

Grandview Avenue provides access from Broadway to both residential units and campus facilities east of Broadway and Grandview Ave contributes towards vehicle circulation and connectivity in this area.  Staff from P&Ds and Transportation and Mobility have been working with the CU team to develop plans to reconstruct the Broadway and Grandview Ave intersection to mitigate potential impacts created by the hotel/conference center.  The intersection’s reconstruction design will prioritize bicycle and pedestrian circulation through the intersection and decrease the speed of the right-turning motor vehicles from Broadway to Grandview Ave.  This will be accomplished by constructing a right-turn lane on northbound Broadway at Grandview Ave and constructing a raised crossing and pork chop area at the intersection.  The city is also coordinating with CDOT on the review of these improvements since Broadway is a state highway in this area. 

————————————

Edward Stafford, P.E., PTOE, F.ASCE

Civil Engineering Senior Manager

 

Letter sent by Community Cycles Advocacy Committee in December 2021:

Dear Members of the Transportation Advisory and Planning Boards and City and CU Staff:

As you know, CU has long been planning a conference center/hotel at the northeast corner of Broadway and University. The Community Cycles Advocacy Committee would like to draw your attention to a major safety issue with the design as it currently stands. As shown in the attached figure, drawn from the “Limelight Hotel and Conference Center: Concept Narrative to City of Boulder” dated December 3, 2021, the developers plan a major route for vehicular access to and from the site at Grandview, to be entered from both southbound and northbound Broadway.

Planning unsignalized access to a 500-stall parking garage across a busy multi-use path (MUP) should be a non-starter. The obvious danger found at any high-frequency vehicular crossing of a busy path is especially enhanced by four issues: 

1) the MUP along Broadway has a very steep gradient at this location, descending from the Hill toward Boulder Creek. Cyclists will easily reach (and, frankly, exceed) the 15 mph speed limit for the path, increasing the risk of serious injury in the event of collision;

2) most drivers will be from out of town, and are probably not used to looking for bicyclists and pedestrians; 

3) the sight-lines at this location are poor because of berms and associated landscaping and because the crossing is at an angle that exceeds 90 degrees, meaning drivers will have to look even harder to their left when exiting the site; and

4) drivers turning left onto the site from southbound Broadway will be looking primarily at the heavy car/bus traffic coming down Broadway and not looking at bicycle/pedestrian traffic on the MUP.

We very strongly urge the City to work with CU to avoid this unacceptable hazard. Our preferred solution is to close Grandview at Broadway, except for emergency access. The site can be adequately reached via University, which provides a signalized crossing at Broadway while inducing a very minimal change in efficiency for the conference center/hotel visitors and staff. The access point at Grandview should be one lane wide, and clearly marked and used for emergency access only. The path should be raised where it crosses Grandview.

We have been concerned about this exact circumstance since the conference center/hotel was first proposed. “Vision Zero” means mitigating potentially dangerous conditions before they cause injury or death. We ask that you promptly and firmly address this unsafe design with the developers of this site.

Sincerely,

The Community Cycles Advocacy Committee

 

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