Stanley Kowalski may not recognize it, but there may soon be a streetcar named Colfax.
It could happen, thanks to a $2 million federal grand awarded to Denver to study the feasibility of installing streetcars on the popular bar and entertainment strip.
According to an article in the Denver Business Journal, the grant from the Federal Transit Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, will look at the practicality of running streetcars on East Colfax Ave. and other streets that run parallel to the downtown area, as well as the Anschutz/Fitzsimmons medical campus in Aurora.
The idea of a streetcar on Colfax isn’t a new idea. In August of 2009, the Denver Department of Policy and Planning, Public Works Division, created a project management plan that put forth the goals of such a project. They set out to identify the impact of a streetcar on Colfax with regards to the types of transit riders who would be likely to use the service, the effect a streetcar would have on private automobile trips, traffic operation in the area, how it would affect area property values and the likelihood of new economic investment in the area be cause of the streetcar’s existence.
While the project has never gone away, it has received new life thanks to the federal funding.
“This congested corridor links economically diverse neighborhoods, downtown Denver, the state capitol and a large medical campus. The need for this project centers on high bus ridership and crowding.”
In the Department of Planning’s initial study, the proposed area of operation was bounded on the west by I-25, on the east by Syracuse Street, on the south by 12th Avenue and on the north by 19th Avenue.
Colfax Avenue, particularly the eastern portion, has been the scene of an economic rebirth in recent years, both commercially and residentially. Recently, civic leaders celebrated the most recent phase of a streetscaping project that has sought to beautify the area as well as make it safer.
With regards to the western portion of Colfax, the study focused on the new Justice Center and sought to show how a streetcar line could enhance land use, sustainability and meet the transportation goals of the city.
In an initial report, the Planning Department states that the streetcars would most likely be powered by overhead electrical lines designed to blend into the area surroundings and possibly integrated into existing lampposts. The streetcars, they state, would not replace buses on Colfax but hopefully combine with the buses to “improve overall mobility and promote walkability on the corridor.”
The report also states that other streetcar projects around the country have cost between $10 million and $50 million per mile depending on the amount of street redesign that is necessary.