July 19, 2018

Jefferson Tollway Negotiations End

Looking west over the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge area where the beltway proponents hope to build the Jefferson Parkway toll highway.

For two decades now, Golden has been fighting proposals to build a beltway through our community. We have been successful so far: there is no beltway plowing through Golden, and a couple of years ago CDOT set aside its own plan to push a six- or eight-lane high-speed superhighway through town. But the proponents – primarily Jefferson County, Arvada, and Broomfield – came up with an alternative plan to build a ten-mile toll highway north of Golden (not through Golden) using private investment dollars.

We’ve been fighting that proposal as well, but it’s much tougher for us to stop because it isn’t within our city limits and because it doesn’t directly rely on public funding. And, moreover, Golden has very real transportation challenges – congestion, air pollution, safety problems, highway noise – that we probably can’t solve while Golden is fighting with these other jurisdictions. In fact, Golden will experience substantial increases in traffic over the next couple of decades with or without the Jefferson Parkway. Golden’s own “Golden Plan” spells out our own vision for appropriate transportation improvements: four lanes limited to 45mph, strict noise limits, replacing traffic lights with grade separated interchanges (designed with pedestrians and bikes at the forefront). With improvements like these, even if the Jefferson Parkway is built, Golden will fare better than we are faring today, with less congestion, reduced noise and air pollution, dramatically improved safety for vehicles and everyone else, and improved connections between our western neighborhoods and the rest of town.

And because of the way transportation dollars are allocated, Golden almost certainly can’t get the improvements we need in town until we reach some sort of agreement with Jeffco, Arvada, and Broomfield. In other words, we can keep fighting the Jefferson Parkway, but it’s a tough fight to win and doing so basically precludes us from getting the improvements we actually want. This has been our basic dilemma as a community for a long time.

Last February, City Council unanimously adopted an updated position on the Jefferson Parkway based on an intensive three-month community input process. A majority of the community supported striving for an agreement to end the dispute but only if the protections for Golden were much stronger. That’s the position Golden took: the city would be willing to drop its opposition to the Jefferson Parkway (but not the beltway) if, in return, Golden gets the improvements we need and the protections we deserve.

After an intensive negotiation process spanning many months now, we came close to reaching an agreement that we felt would truly protect Golden from the impacts of growth and development north of town. But ultimately we were unable to agree on provisions we believed would protect Golden from tolling or lane widening being forced on us. An agreement that might result in tolling or lane-widening being forced through town has always been unacceptable.

We appreciate the Governor’s effort to help these neighboring communities resolve a multi-decade dispute, and we appreciate the effort everyone – Jeffco, Arvada, Broomfield, CDOT, and the facilitator – put in to try and get there. But in the end we were unable to reach terms that worked for everyone.

We will continue taking the steps we believe necessary to protect Golden, but we remain open to a continued discussion with our neighbors about a solution that truly meets the needs of all of the communities. I also believe that it’s time for a major update to the Golden Plan (which was first adopted as the Muller Plan in 2003), and I am encouraging the new City Council to kick off a community process for doing just that in 2012. This will be a chance for everyone to think through what improvements we want and how to prioritize them.

I would have been pleased to reach an agreement that ended two decades of war between neighboring jurisdictions before my term ended; the fight is expensive, it limits our ability to make the improvements we need, and it makes it very difficult for Jefferson County communities to collaborate on other important issues. I still believe a good agreement would be better for all of the communities involved. But I have no qualms rejecting something that doesn’t truly protect Golden.

This will remain a very challenging issue for our community. The proponents are not likely to give up their tollway ambitions, and growth and traffic increases in northern Jefferson County are going to impact Golden regardless of whether the Jefferson Parkway is built. I wish the new Council the very best of luck in navigating between less-than-ideal options, and I look forward to contributing as a member of the Golden community to the discussions we will no doubt continue to have in the years ahead.

Comments

  1. Kit C. says:

    Well, that is what I had suspected was the pointof contention; Golden wants guarantees that we keep it at 4 lanes and 45 mph, and the other entities thought they were going to get to use a “camel’s nose under the tent” approach by letting us start wiht that, and then forcing a defacto beltway after the fact. Given that, I’m glad Golden scuppered the deal.

    I hope we can still work towards a final agreement that protects our historic town from being railroaded into a “Beltway by another name”, and since it appears that the other involved entities are not willing to grant us the right to preserve our town, we must keep fighting for our city.

    Thanks again for all your hard work as Mayor; Golden is a better place thanks to your efforts!

    • Jacob Smith says:

      Thanks for the comments, Kit. Any agreement carries with it some risk like you describe, which is why provisions preventing that are especially important. Not reaching an agreement carries with it real risk as well, but in this case the agreement wouldn’t have been strong enough to justify it.

  2. Jim Smith says:

    I’d like to see the “deal” that was being formulated as of the Council meeting on Dec. 15th and was expected to be in Golden’s hands the following week. Can we not see what they presented to Golden? It seems as if they presented something unacceptable that entailed a provision not revealed by Dec. 15th. And it appears that a decision was made — without an open meeting — to reject that deal. What’s the story here?

    • Jacob Smith says:

      To your first question, one premise of the negotiating process is that the details of everyone’s offers and negotiations remain confidential. This is true for nearly any complex negotiation, as I’m sure you know, Jim.

      To your second question, City Council met in executive session a number of times over the past several months to give direction to the negotiators (which primarily were the city manager and myself). Going into the final weeks of negotiations, based on the executive session discussions, Mike and I had very clear direction from City Council on what might be acceptable and what was not acceptable. If we had reached an agreement that we thought might work, we would have brought it back for Council’s consideration. That would have been in a public meeting. We didn’t end up with an agreement that was strong enough, so there wasn’t anything to bring back.

  3. Stephen F says:

    Mayor – many thanks for your service to our community and for your frankness on these important issues.

    As a young family in the Mountain Ridge neighborhood, I concur with your assessment that we should revisit the 2003 Golden/Muller Plan for any appropriate adjustments given more current information available. Moreover, as a former Washington DC resident (where there’s already a well known beltway with well known concerns), I wholeheartedly agree that any changes to 93 must have a) safety/community/environmental protection (e.g. 45mph speed limit, strict noise buffering, grade separated interchanges with dedicated pedestrian and bike access) and b) legal protection from ever letting 6 / 93 “evolve” into a beltway itself.

    We have various legitimate transportation and traffic issues at hand which, if we continue to work diligently and collegially on, we can solve in a manner that puts Golden in an even better position for now and future generations.