Transportation

Cherry Creek Trail roadblocks vanishing

Arapahoe Road underpass will eliminate barrier for cyclists

The Cherry Creek Trail will extend underneath Arapahoe Road as part of a bridge replacement project. The street long has been a major barrier for cyclists traveling north. Photo by Jane Reuter
The Cherry Creek Trail will extend underneath Arapahoe Road as part of a bridge replacement project. The street long has been a major barrier for cyclists traveling north. Photo by Jane Reuter
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Parker cyclist Harry Porter has twice narrowly escaped being hit by a car on Jordan Road. The busy street is among the few alternatives for north or southbound riders trying to cross Arapahoe Road.
But not for much longer.
By next May, an underpass will extend the Cherry Creek Regional Trail under Arapahoe Road just west of its intersection with Parker Road. The underpass and construction of a trailhead is part of the Colorado Department of Transportation's $22 million project to replace the Arapahoe Road bridge over Cherry Creek.
The Cherry Creek Trail extends from Castlewood Canyon to Cherry Creek state parks. An estimated 8,000 to 11,000 cyclists ride the trail each spring and summer, and an average 7,000 to 8,000 use it during the offseason, according to Arapahoe County Open Space officials.
“It's going to be wonderful,” Porter said. “We'll be able to go under Arapahoe Road instead of down Jordan. Jordan is a very dangerous road for cyclists. This is going to be welcome by all the bicyclists in the area.”
The wider bridge and planned new sidewalks will be safer for motorists and pedestrians, too.
“This bridge was built in in 1959; it's time to replace it,” CDOT spokeswoman Crystal Morgan said.
The underpass concludes at least 10 years of work to create a continuous trail from Parker north to Cherry Creek State Park. The Arapahoe County portion was boosted by the 2003 passage of an Arapahoe County open space sales and use tax.
The current Arapahoe Road surface crossing “is not very friendly and difficult to navigate,” said Shannon Carter, Arapahoe County's intergovernmental relations director.
“As soon as they're finished with the bridge, we'll be putting a major trailhead right at Arapahoe Road,” Carter said. “We're planning on having a nice opening.”
The trail connection will enable ambitious riders to do a complete metro-Denver loop from the C-470/Centennial Trail to the Cherry Creek Trail to the South Platte Regional Trail back to the C-470 trail.
In Douglas County, three miles of the Cherry Creek trail's south end isn't yet complete.
That includes about a mile south starting at Scott Road in Parker. The trail ends there now, leaving riders to travel a lightly used gravel road to the next section. That portion is awaiting development of the property south of Scott Road.
Another 2.5-mile section hasn't yet been built from Colorado Highway 86 south to Castlewood Canyon.
“That's in our five-year capital development (plan),” said Douglas County Trails and Open Space director Randy Burkhardt. “We do know that's a gap we have to fill.”
Burkhardt said construction of a planned housing development south of Scott Road must get underway before the county can build the shorter of the two remaining sections through that area.
Douglas County also is still working to obtain a permit to construct the East-West Regional Trail from Bluffs Regional Park east underneath Interstate 25. Eventually, it also will connect to the Cherry Creek trail.