20 May CDOT is tearing up its $9 billion to-do list — and the rewr…
Light-rail train horns interrupted a news conference announcing Colorado’s new push for public input on its transportation priorities. State officials couldn’t have asked for a better reminder that getting around doesn’t always mean new pavement.
It’s likely that the 10-year priority plan that results from a listening tour of all 64 counties this summer will include plenty of highway repaving and widening, especially for long-neglected stretches now throttled by burgeoning growth.
But the Colorado Department of Transportation’s new leader said Friday that simply accommodating more cars won’t work as planners work out a wholesale update for CDOT’s long-discussed $9 billion backlog list of maintenance and projects.
“Thinking about how we solve for capacity in a way that preserves the things that people love about living in Colorado has to be a multimodal solution,” said Executive Director Shoshana Lew, Gov. Jared Polis’ appointee to head CDOT, after the event. “I’ll use I-25 as an example, because the biggest capacity (expansion) projects we have right now, other than Central 70 (in Denver), are on I-25.
“We are not going to be able to build our way out of congestion on a corridor where 85 percent of a growing population lives. The math just doesn’t work.”
CDOT has ventured into supporting transit services more in recent years, most visibly through its Bustang regional coach service. Speakers at CDOT’s unveiling of the “Your Transportation Plan” outreach effort outside CDOT’s new headquarters in west Denver emphasized the importance of local bus services — and the potential for expansions to serve more people.
“Too often when people think of public transit, they only think about Denver RTD’s commuter trains or buses,” said Ann Rajewski, executive director of the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies. She cited examples that serve residents near Colorado Springs and in southern Colorado’s Las Animas and Huerfano counties. “The truth is, public transit provides critical services across the state, in both urban and rural areas.”
Other prerogatives got attention, too.
“One of the things that I would like to make sure we do in this statewide effort is not just to include geographic areas, but to include special populations — like people with disabilities and senior citizens — in these conversations,” Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said.
Lew pitched the outreach effort as a change to CDOT’s typical approach.
The latest effort will focus on refreshing Colorado’s local and regional priorities along CDOT-controlled corridors — primarily state and federal highways — and compiling new proposals to solve transportation challenges, rather than getting jammed up on how to pay for them.
Of course, the latter question remains vexing, and it’s among the reasons difficult corridors, including I-70 through the mountains, remain congested. The state legislature has battled for years over how to raise more money for transportation projects, while voters have rejected recent ballot measures that would allow more borrowing or raise their sales taxes.
During this year’s session, lawmakers worked out the latest piecemeal addition of money for projects in the next fiscal year, building on prior allocations. But that leaves a gap of billions of dollars for the state’s long-standing road-heavy list.
Residents can weigh in on what’s important for their commutes and other travel at YourTransportationPlan.com. That’s also where CDOT will post information about county-by-county meetings and telephone town halls in the coming months.