After 18 months of work, Boulder County and its partners have released a feasibility study providing recommendations for transit-related service enhancements and other investments along U.S. 287 from Longmont to U.S. 36 in Broomfield.
With an eye toward addressing growing congestion and travel demand, the study proposes a variety of improvements to help implement bus rapid transit, or a high-quality bus-based transit system that’s more reliable, convenient and faster than traditional bus service.
“We’re really just trying to make a better corridor for people traveling — no matter how they want to do so,” Jeff Butts, a multimodal transportation planner with Boulder County, said. “It’s really that spine … that connects Boulder County together.”
The feasibility study was conducted in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to changes in traditional travel behaviors. The project team took this into consideration and made sure to differentiate between pre-COVID-19 transit and travel data and post-COVID projections, the study notes.
The study, which was released for review earlier this week, generally examines several scenarios, including maintaining existing conditions, making basic operational improvements and making operational improvements while also adding stations, intersections and bus and turning lanes.
It also identifies high priority intersections, including U.S. 287 and Isabelle Road and U.S. 287 and Baseline Road in Lafayette and U.S. 287 and Midway Boulevard in Broomfield. Generally, these are areas that have been identified as high priority, given that they’re the intersections where transit is experiencing the longest levels of delay, Butts noted.
It proposes a variety of enhancements at each such as intersection improvements and signal and queue jumps — or a space where the bus can stay to the right of traffic as it begins moving, thus allowing the bus to “jump the queue” to the front of the line.
Through a variety of community conversations conducted throughout the process, there were a number of key takeaways.
Community members said there must be a safe place for bikes and a safer way to cross U.S. 287. They also said they’d like enclosed stations and protection from the elements and that being able to predict when the bus will arrive is important.
The study identifies a variety of proposals along the 20-mile corridor with the planning-level cost estimate ranging anywhere from $167 million to $215 million.
In a public meeting held last December, Deputy Director of Transportation Planning Kathleen Bracke noted Boulder County could make use of federal infrastructure funds to assist with some of the costs.
Still, it’s a feasibility study, and it will be a while before any projects begin.
“We recognize that we’ll need to do this probably one step at a time, but that’s really how all of our corridors come together,” Bracke said.
The study itself was co-funded by Boulder County and the city and county of Broomfield, though the corridor itself involves other municipalities as well, including Longmont, Erie and Lafayette.
This will ultimately lead to a variety of projects being planned and paid for by different jurisdictions, Butts noted.
“Again, we will be working with partners all across the region to implement this, and there will be congruent projects going on at the same time,” he said.
“We’re looking to have concurrent projects (and) at the same time being opportunistic with them,” Butts said, adding that the county and its various partners would be looking for projects that meet multiple objectives.
Now that the initial phase has concluded, the county is moving into a second phase focusing on safety. It was not originally part of the plan but was inspired by feedback from the community, Butts noted.
“How do we prevent tragic loss of life or … a life-changing crash? We take it very seriously … and we’re working hard at that,” he said.
Feedback on the U.S. 287 Bus Rapid Transit Feasibility Study is being taken until Sept. 16. It can be given online at boco.org/287planning. To stay informed about the work, sign up for news at boco.org/US287news.