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The activity looking east down Colorado Avenue during the construction at 30th Street and Colorado on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
The activity looking east down Colorado Avenue during the construction at 30th Street and Colorado on March 30, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

It’s been more than a year since the beginning of the construction on two underpasses at the intersection of 30th Street and Colorado Avenue, but now the finish date for the $16 million project has been pushed back to January 2023.

Originally, the 18-month plan was slated to finish in fall of 2022. The main reason for the set back can be attributed to having to move around internal structures at and around the intersection.

“The 30th and Colorado underpass project has spent a significant portion of the initial effort on relocating utilities as well as relocating the Wellman Irrigation Ditch,” said Gerrit Slater, the principal transportation projects engineer.

The irrigation ditch on the northeast quadrant of the intersection is near Boulder Creek, and the diversion structure and the relocating of the piping has been the main focus of the project so far.

“We’ve reached the point, in the last couple months, where we are now doing the excavation and folks should start seeing a huge hole in the ground where the underpass will start taking shape,” Slater said.

Officials did not know if there would be any upcoming access issues on adjacent roads as the construction continued.

About 30,000 vehicles and 1,500 pedestrians cross through the intersection at 30th and Colorado per day, and the intersection is a top collision site in Boulder. According to its website, between 2012 and 2016 there were 86 collisions, 18 involving bicyclists.

“This will be the first fully protected intersection in the city,” said Samantha Glavin, the communication program manager. “When we were doing community outreach with the project, the number one concern was safety. And this is one of the biggest intersections in the city, so we designed this project to provide a car-free and less stressful way to cross the intersection.”

A protected intersection features “separated crossing movements for bicyclists,” meaning that bicyclists do not merge with other crossing traffic. The intersection will also feature  corner “refuge islands” and stop bars to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and bicyclists and make them more visible to drivers.

“I’m so freaking excited for this underpass and I absolutely think it’s worth the time and money, despite the current inconveniences,” said Dana Francesca Stamo, who has been a University of Colorado Boulder student for the past eight years. “I think it will contribute to better unifying east and main campus, as it makes it easier and safer to travel for pedestrians. It also makes the roads safer for cars as pedestrians won’t need to rely on breaks in traffic to cross this busy intersection.”

Stamo’s excitement was echoed by fellow graduate student Bri Dobson.

“I think the result of a pedestrian (and) bike underpass is fantastic,” Dobson wrote in an email to the Camera. “30th is a scary street to bike down, and that intersection was already busy.”

However, despite the excitement, Dobson can’t dismiss the disruption the long and now extended construction project has caused. The altered lanes and construction have virtually eliminated bike lanes and pedestrian crossings on 30th Street near the intersection, and drivers have complained about confusing signage and lanes.

“As someone who lives at the corner of 30th and Colorado, the construction has significantly disrupted my life every time I leave my apartment, and even when I don’t,” Dobson wrote. “The way the intersection there works is very unsafe – lanes shift across the intersection, and I have seen people accidentally drive on the wrong side of the street on more than one occasion. It doesn’t help that the lanes changed frequently for the first several months of the construction. All in all, I’m glad they’re doing it, but I can’t help but think that there must be a safer way to manage the traffic at the intersection in the meantime,” Dobson said.

Boulder officials said they recognize the patience residents and commuters have shown throughout the process.

“We understand that big projects like this are a disruption and we really appreciate the community’s patience as we finish this work,” Glavin said. “We’re really excited to introduce these new facilities to the community.”

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