April 28, 2017

Let the Legal Wrangling Begin: the Beltway Lawsuit Gets Underway

The beltway lawsuits is off to a colorful start ...

The first of the proceedings in the lawsuit challenging the beltway proposal kicked off last week with a hearing on the lawsuit schedule. Scheduling conferences are usually dull affairs, but Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made it interesting: he made a highly unusual (perhaps unprecedented) bid to address the court as part of the hearing. It was a pretty strange move, since VIPs (even if they are cabinet secretaries) don’t usually get special opportunities to weigh in during legal proceedings, in addition to drawing even more attention to the backroom politics that have characterized the beltway and Rocky Flats issues from the beginning. Secretary Salazar withdrew his request before the judge ruled on it.

Check out the Denver Post article (“Jefferson Parkway opponents decry Salazar’s attempt to weigh in on court case“) for more details.

Golden, Superior, and two conservation groups (Rocky Mountain Wild and WildEarth Guardians) filed the lawsuit earlier this year, challenging the federal government’s attempt to sell land that is now part of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge for use as a toll highway. We

In the meantime, Golden resumed its discussions with beltway proponents about a potential agreement to the dispute. As far as I know, the City Council’s position hasn’t changed appreciably since January: a willingness to consider an agreement that truly protects Golden from transportation projects that might occur outside our city limits. One thing that has changed: Colorado seems to be moving more definitively toward a transportation funding regime that relies heavily on toll lanes and toll highways across the state. Councilor Fisher provided some useful context in his newsletter last week:

While it is quiet on the PR and communications front, Council is actively engaged in working with and expanding the conversation on a Beltway. At the same time, the changing landscape of Colorado road funding means big, big changes in how CDOT and surrounding counties look at transportation. Specifically, I’m starting to sense that Coloradans are about to see a lot of new toll and “managed” lanes in the state over the next 10 years on major roads like C470, I-70, and possibly highway 93 in sections.

The basic math is this: Nobody appears interested in paying taxes, so if any roads are going to be built or maintained it’ll require tolling. Unfortunately, we’re getting what we as a society have asked for. More to the point, however, it means there are a LOT more interested players in seeing roads in and around Golden and the Metro area affected and connected. I partially see it as our role to understand how not to get run over by this massive shift in road policy here in Colorado and ensure we do get the mitigations and protections that keep Golden connected as a single, small and unique community with safe, slow roads, pollution reduction, and neighborhood strengthening.

I strongly encourage everyone to keep an ear to the ground as this challenge continues to be on our radar even when it may appear to go on the back burner. It affects all of us, and the more folks aware and involved, the better the outcome we can craft.

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