Pedestrian and Cyclist Improvements Could Further Connect a Vibrant South Pearl Neighborhood.

RTD opened the Southeast Line in Denver in 2006. Running along I-25 from Union Station, the line is somewhat unique in Denver in that many of the stations were built as pedestrian-oriented stations in already established neighborhoods. There are no massive parking garages or empty fields like the stations along the A-Line. There has been development around these stations over the last ten years, such as the apartments at the 10th and Osage Station, and the new building at Yale Station.

 

RTD
Louisiana Pearl Station from Buchtel Road.  Image Credit: Aurora Sentinal

 

South Pearl Station, officially called Louisiana-Pearl, is a wonderful station in the RTD light rail system. The station itself is located below street level along I-25, with many entrances, all on the South side of I-25. There are three bridges all next to the station, and they all have sidewalks and are well lit. It is pretty easy to get to the station, but with I-25 running through two neighborhoods, connectivity is still a bit of an issue in the area. In short, the station is easily accessible, but going from one neighborhood to the other could be made easier.

1943 Denver Map
A map of Denver from 1943 shows Buchtel Road surrounding the rail Line to Elizabeth.

I-25 was built through Denver in these neighborhoods in 1963 and tied into the Platte valley Highway. The route was chosen partially because of the old rail line from Denver to Elizabeth (shown in the above map from 1943) already ran through the area. The neighborhood has always had a divide, but now it is more vibrant than ever. The shopping district on historic South Pearl Street is only a few blocks away, Whole Foods has a grocery store on the North side of I-25 at Pearl Street, and Louisiana and Broadway are booming just blocks to the West.

Denver’s Louisiana-Pearl Station Master Plan calls for a pedestrian friendly environment with sidewalks up to sixteen feet in areas, but one reader has suggested a pedestrian bridge over I-25 connecting South Pearl Street for pedestrians and cyclists would make the neighborhood even more accessible. While Lousiana is only a block to the East, walking from Pearl to Street on the South side of I-25 to Pearl Street on the North side of I-25 is a little over a quarter mile, or the entire distance of what RTD considers to be the “influence area” of the light rail station. A pedestrian bridge connecting Pearl Street would make this a walk of 450 feet. Moving the south end of the bridge to Pennsylvania would mean a 300-foot bridge would eliminate a nearly half-mile of walking or cycling each way.

Denver has constructed pedestrian bridges over I-25 at other light rail stations. The pedestrian bridge Colorado Center Station on the Southeast corridor opened in 2015, and it is only a block away from Evans Avenue. Denver is also constructing a pedestrian bridge in River North at 36th Street, just two blocks down from the current pedestrian bridge at 38th Street. The master plan for the station is ten years old and will need to be updated within the next five to ten years. If Denver wants to further connect neighborhoods, eliminating pedestrian and cyclist obstacles around our freeways and rail yards would be the place to start.

Thank you to reader Bo W. for suggesting this story.

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Top photo credit: Denver Community Planning and Development

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