Mounting congestion and 4 crashes a week: Changes coming to Peña Boulevard

Brittany Anas
The approach to Denver International Airport on Peña Boulevard.Photo byDenver International Airport

By Brittany Anas / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo) On a good day, it takes 8 minutes to travel between I-70 and Gun Club Road on your way to Denver International Airport along Peña Boulevard. But when traffic is congested, as is increasingly the case, the drive time triples—causing stress for those who have flights to catch.

On top of that, an average of four crashes happen each week on Peña Boulevard, bringing about safety concerns for those traveling to and from the airport and those living in Northeast Denver. The 11.1-mile-long roadway provides the only roadway access to DIA.

Should the airport widen the shoulders along Peña, add HOV lanes or create a paid toll lane?

Braced for even more traffic in the future and compounded by residential and commercial growth near the airport, Denver International Airport officials are creating a master plan to improve Peña Boulevard and taking input from the public. The final masterplan is scheduled to be complete in fall of 2023 and construction would start in 2027.

Problems on Peña Boulevard

Airport officials expect DIA, which is currently the third busiest airport globally, will serve 121.9 million passengers in 2040, with 63 percent of those travelers beginning or ending their trips at DIA.

On top of that, 20,000 additional homes are planned for the area and commercial development continues.

The Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, a 1,500-room hotel, opened in 2019. Pepsi is opening its largest U.S. bottling plant on a 152-acre site near East 72nd Avenue and Tower Road.

Peña Boulevard, which has two lanes in each direction, is already experiencing growing pains, with increasing traffic congestion. Daily traffic volumes peaked in 2019, before the pandemic, when there were nearly 138,000 daily Peña passengers, up from roughly 116,000 in 2016.
DIA officials are developing a master plan for Peña Boulevard improvements.Photo byDenver International Airport

There have been 860 crashes on Peña Boulevard between 2016 and 2021, four of which were fatal. Accident hot spots are at the bend near Tower Road and 56th Avenue as at interchanges including 40th Avenue and Green Valley Ranch and Peña.

Another pain point? Only about 9 percent of people accessing the airport do so via public transportation like RTD’s A-Line or shuttle buses. When airport officials looked at other comparable U.S. airports, the percentage of passengers using public transportation was in the teens and 20s.
Only nine percent of people arrive at DIA via public transportation.Photo byDenver International Airport

Possible Solutions for Peña Boulevard

Several ideas will be considered for improving Peña Boulevard. Some early possibilities include widening the lanes or adding a third lane in each direction.

Another idea that’s being floated is adding a “managed lane,” which is an umbrella term for a lane that would be for high-occupancy vehicles (HOV), limiting it to buses, or operating an express toll.

Knowing that Peña Boulevard travel is a hot-button topic, DIA Tweeted asking travelers to share their opinions this week.

One user suggested having a centralized rental car area like other major airports so there aren’t individual shuttles for each company. DIA replied that it’s an idea being considered.

Others suggested discounted A-line tickets for those with flights, adding another route to the airport.

Have ideas for the project? You can leave your comments here on a comment form.

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Brittany is a journalist in the Denver metro area with more than two decades of writing and editing experience. She covers travel, restaurants and other lifestyle topics.

Westminster, CO

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