October 15, 2019

Jacob's Golden Update: Denver and Golden Featured in Upcoming PBS Documentary on Sprawl

Jacob’s Golden Update: May 18, 2009

1. Denver and Golden Featured in Upcoming PBS Documentary on Sprawl
2. City Council Approves Fee Waivers for Renewable Energy Projects
3. Golden Public Works Takes Top Awards
4. Saoirse Charis-Graves Kicks Off Ward 1 City Council Campaign
5. Street Vendor Request Withdrawn
6. CDOT’s Clear Creek Canyon Closures
7. Other Upcoming Events
8. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, May 21

[Read more…]

Jacob’s Golden Update: Denver and Golden Featured in Upcoming PBS Documentary on Sprawl

Jacob’s Golden Update: May 18, 2009

1. Denver and Golden Featured in Upcoming PBS Documentary on Sprawl
2. City Council Approves Fee Waivers for Renewable Energy Projects
3. Golden Public Works Takes Top Awards
4. Saoirse Charis-Graves Kicks Off Ward 1 City Council Campaign
5. Street Vendor Request Withdrawn
6. CDOT’s Clear Creek Canyon Closures
7. Other Upcoming Events
8. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, May 21

[Read more…]

Jacob's Golden Update: Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff and Other News

1. Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff: Wednesday, March 11
2. Pedestrian Improvements on Kimball and Crawford
3. Golden Community Garden in the Works
4. City Using Solar Energy to Heat Community Pool
5. Council Moves Forward with Jackson Street Corridor Bike and Pedestrian Improvements
6. Fixing the Ethics Code Loophole
7. City Council Adopts Height Limits and Architectural Guidelines for Downtown Golden
8. Beltway Update: Transportation Funding Bill Includes Strong Local Protections
9. Road Closures: W. 44th and Johnson Road
10. Other Upcoming Events
11. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, March 12

**********

1. Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff: March 11

Does your vision for Golden include protecting our small town and historic character?  Does it include improved pedestrian and bicycle connections between neighborhoods?  Does it include a thriving downtown and other business districts?  Good transit connections to Denver and other parts of Colorado?  A continued commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency?  Have we protected enough open space in and around Golden or do we want to protect more?

If it includes any of these things, or if you have any other ideas for the future of Golden, I hope you’ll consider attending the Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff Event this Wednesday evening at Golden High School.  Golden Vision will give us a chance to clearly define what we want the future of our community to look like and ensure that we move in the right direction.  Everyone in the community is invited to participate on Wednesday and throughout the process, contributing your thoughts, concerns, and ideas.

I also hope you’ll take a minute to visit the Community Almanac web site and share your stories and photographs of Golden.  The site just went up, so there aren’t many stories up yet . . . please visit and add anything you like.

2. Pedestrian Improvements on Kimball and Crawford

Ensuring that all of our kids can walk or bike to their neighborhood school is the highest priority of our walkability and bikeability efforts.  Both Kimball Avenue and Crawford Street are scheduled to be repaved this summer, and we are taking advantage of this project to widen the sidewalks, slow down traffic, and in other ways make it easier and safer to walk or bike to Shelton.  The basic tradeoff: the wider the sidewalks, the narrower the street.  We hear quite a bit about cars traveling too fast near the school, and narrowing the street will slow down traffic, but also requires drivers to be more alert.  We’ve got a range of options – we’ve got sketches of what the streets could look like under each – and we welcome your feedback.  Please visit the site and post your comments online, send me an email, or visit the Open House at Shelton Elementary tomorrow evening (Tuesday, March 10, drop by anytime between 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.).

3. Golden Community Garden in the Works

Although we still have some logistical hurdles to overcome, a Golden Community Garden is starting to look a lot more realistic.  The Sustainability Board has been promoting the idea and a growing group of community residents are working hard with the city to make it all come together.  They’ve got two planning meetings on the schedule, and if you are interested in helping to pull this off please consider attending one or both.  One is tonight at 8 p.m. at the Community Center in the Beaver Brook room (8 p.m. – 8:55 p.m.).  The second is Friday morning, March 13 at Windy Saddle Cafe (1110 Washington Ave.) from 7 a.m. to 7:25 a.m.

You can learn more or get involved by sending the group an email.

4. City Using Solar Energy to Heat Community Pool

Great news on the renewable energy front: the City of Golden is now using a new solar hot water system to heat our indoor pool at the Community Center indoor pool.  Installation of a solar water heating system was one recommendation of the city’s energy audit last year and is part of the City of Golden’s effort to improve energy efficiency across city buildings and programs.  The new solar water heating system cost $315,000, more than half of which was paid for with grants.  The grant came out of the city’s partnership with the Governor’s Energy Office and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.  By using solar energy to heat our pool water, we expect to save more than $22,000 every year.

5. Council Moves Forward with Jackson Street Corridor Bike and Pedestrian Improvements

The Walkability Task Force’s highest priority recommendation last year was improvements on the Jackson Street Corridor.  Jackson is a key pedestrian and bike route to Golden High School and a major connection between the north and south parts of town but it is poorly designed for either people on foot or on bike.

We will reconfigure that entire stretch of Jackson with a “Complete Streets” design, dropping the street down to two lanes (it’s now three lanes wide) and adding bike lanes, some landscaping, and much-improved sidewalks.  Two lanes is more than enough to handle the vehicle traffic (and in fact it is two lanes both north and south of this stretch).  We’ve seen widespread community support for the project, and City Council gave staff the go-ahead to do the design work and get ready to go to bid.  Although the project isn’t budgeted until 2010, given the dramatic drop in construction prices over the past several months we are going to look at accelerating the work if it makes sense.

6. Fixing the Ethics Code Loophole

Although the City Council set extremely high standards last year for accountability and transparency, we’ve promised to set the bar even higher in 2009.  One important step: eliminate the big loophole in our ethics code.  Our code is already quite stringent (as it should be), but a quirk of the language could allow a member of the City Council to accept a gift of unlimited value so long as they accept the gift in their “personal capacity.”  To my mind, members of the City Council should not accept gifts from people that live, own property, or otherwise have interests in Golden (with some limited exceptions, like gifts from family members).  This principle seems very straightforward to me, yet our current code potentially allows anyone – say a developer who periodically asks Council for rezonings or variances – to give large gifts to members of City Council so long as they are “personal” gifts.  I want to fix this.

The concern, of course, is that if members of City Council accept gifts from community members they may give those folks special treatment.  This is exactly the issue that came up in the ethics complaint filed against Councilor Mary Weaver a couple of years ago.  Councilor Weaver accepted a gift (a loan from Marian Olson that she is not necessarily obligated to pay back) to fund her lawsuit against the city.  This seems to violate the ethics code prohibiting City Councilors from accepting gifts (including loans), but Councilor Weaver is arguing that it’s acceptable because she accepted the gift in her “personal capacity.”

This loophole is even more problematic, however, because Councilor Weaver then participated in a City Council decision in which Marian Olson – to whom she is now deeply indebted – had a direct financial interest.  Because of the potential loophole in our ethics code, I don’t know if Councilor Weaver actually violated our code or not, but I want to clarify this language so that there is no confusion moving forward.

We are scheduled to discuss this issue at our City Council meeting this Thursday night.

7. City Council Adopts Height Limits and Architectural Guidelines for Downtown Golden

When I ran for mayor I pledged to get a handle on growth in Golden.  We are doing just that, and our latest effort focused on protecting the historic and small-town character of our downtown.  After a thorough two-year process with considerable community input, City Council two weeks ago adopted architectural guidelines and height limits for downtown Golden.  These “Downtown Design Guidelines” establish the strictest height limits – three floors with an average setback of eight feet on the third floor – for Washington Avenue from about Clear Creek to about 14th St.  Taller buildings are permitted in other areas of downtown, especially to the east of Washington Avenue (between Washington Ave. and Ford St./Coors).  City Council can always issue a PUD allowing for taller buildings, but these new guidelines should mean that additional tall buildings downtown are the exception.

8. Beltway Update: Transportation Funding Bill Includes Strong Local Protections

One of the very first bills introduced in the state legislature this year was Governor Ritter’s package of transportation funding proposals.  The element of greatest concern to Golden was the tolling piece.  In its original form, it would have allowed tolling of existing lanes – like Highway 93 – right up to our boundaries, but despite the impacts we would have had no say in whether it happened or what sorts of mitigation would have to occur.  Through our hard work with the Governor’s office, legislators, and many other folks in the Denver region, we were able to eliminate the harmful part of the bill and replace it with a strong local protection provision that gives every affected community the right to veto any such proposal.  I give a lot of credit to Governor Ritter’s office, the sponsors of the bill, and my colleague mayors around the region for their willingness to negotiate in good faith and come up with a solution that protects local communities like Golden.  I also give a lot of credit to our state legislators, Representative Gwyn Green and Senator Moe Keller.  They both worked extremely hard to make sure that Golden would be protected and their efforts made a huge difference.

9. Road Closures: W. 44th and Johnson Road

Johnson Road will be closed between 10th Avenue and 6th Avenue most evenings and weekends until April 3 for utility line relocation work.  Traffic will be detoured through the Jefferson County complex.  This is an early step in the construction of the new light rail station at the Jefferson County Building.

In addition, CDOT is scheduled to close West 44th Ave between Vasquez and Easley from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. through March 11.  For eastbound traffic they recommend taking Ford St to 13thSt/W. 32nd Ave. to McIntyre.  For westbound traffic they recommend taking McIntyre to W. 32nd/13th St.  The closure is for work on the Hwy 58 overpass over W. 44th.

10. Other Upcoming Events

  • Golden Community Garden Planning Meeting, March 9 (TONIGHT).  This is a planning meeting for a new community garden at the Community Center from 8 -9 p.m.
  • Kimball/Crawford Pedestrian Improvements Open House, March 10.  This is an opportunity to review the range of options for making pedestrian improvements near Shelton Elementary.  Drop by Shelton anytime between 6 – 8 p.m.
  • Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff, March 11.  The Golden Vision 2030 “Heart & Soul of Golden” process kicks off at Golden High School.
  • Golden Community Garden Planning Meeting, March 13.  This is another planning meeting for a new community garden at Windy Saddle Cafe (1110 Washington Ave.) from 7 to 7:30 a.m.
  • “State of the City Address,” March 19.  The Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Three Tomatoes at Fossil Trace features City Manager Mike Bestor’s “State of the City” address.  You can RSVP with the Chamber at 303-279-3113.
  • Town Hall Meeting with State Senator Moe Keller and State Representative Gwyn Green, Golden City Hall, Saturday March 21.  This is a great chance to hear what’s going on the state legislature and to ask your state representative and state senator questions.  It runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • First Friday, Historic Downtown Golden, April 3.  Many of the downtown shops, stores, and restaurants stay open late, often with treats and specials.  You’ll also find entertainment and free horse drawn carriage rides (weather permitting).

11. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, March 12

Our next city council meeting is a regular business meeting on March 12.  You can download that and review minutes and videos of previous City Council meetings on the city’s web site.

The agenda includes the following issues:

  • Discussion of an update to our Ethics Code to eliminate a potential loophole.
  • Discussion of a potential update to the city’s campaign finance rules to eliminate a loophole that could allow a candidate to avoid campaign contribution limits.
  • Consideration of a potential alley vacation on the Colorado School of Mines campus.  The alley is on the block bounded by 17th Street, 18th Street, Illinois Street and Maple Street.
  • Consideration of a request for setback variances for a residential addition at 2135 Illinois.

**********

Jacob Smith, Mayor
jsmith@cityofgolden.net
(303) 216-168
www.SmithforGolden.org

Jacob’s Golden Update: Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff and Other News

1. Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff: Wednesday, March 11
2. Pedestrian Improvements on Kimball and Crawford
3. Golden Community Garden in the Works
4. City Using Solar Energy to Heat Community Pool
5. Council Moves Forward with Jackson Street Corridor Bike and Pedestrian Improvements
6. Fixing the Ethics Code Loophole
7. City Council Adopts Height Limits and Architectural Guidelines for Downtown Golden
8. Beltway Update: Transportation Funding Bill Includes Strong Local Protections
9. Road Closures: W. 44th and Johnson Road
10. Other Upcoming Events
11. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, March 12

**********

1. Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff: March 11

Does your vision for Golden include protecting our small town and historic character?  Does it include improved pedestrian and bicycle connections between neighborhoods?  Does it include a thriving downtown and other business districts?  Good transit connections to Denver and other parts of Colorado?  A continued commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency?  Have we protected enough open space in and around Golden or do we want to protect more?

If it includes any of these things, or if you have any other ideas for the future of Golden, I hope you’ll consider attending the Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff Event this Wednesday evening at Golden High School.  Golden Vision will give us a chance to clearly define what we want the future of our community to look like and ensure that we move in the right direction.  Everyone in the community is invited to participate on Wednesday and throughout the process, contributing your thoughts, concerns, and ideas.

I also hope you’ll take a minute to visit the Community Almanac web site and share your stories and photographs of Golden.  The site just went up, so there aren’t many stories up yet . . . please visit and add anything you like.

2. Pedestrian Improvements on Kimball and Crawford

Ensuring that all of our kids can walk or bike to their neighborhood school is the highest priority of our walkability and bikeability efforts.  Both Kimball Avenue and Crawford Street are scheduled to be repaved this summer, and we are taking advantage of this project to widen the sidewalks, slow down traffic, and in other ways make it easier and safer to walk or bike to Shelton.  The basic tradeoff: the wider the sidewalks, the narrower the street.  We hear quite a bit about cars traveling too fast near the school, and narrowing the street will slow down traffic, but also requires drivers to be more alert.  We’ve got a range of options – we’ve got sketches of what the streets could look like under each – and we welcome your feedback.  Please visit the site and post your comments online, send me an email, or visit the Open House at Shelton Elementary tomorrow evening (Tuesday, March 10, drop by anytime between 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.).

3. Golden Community Garden in the Works

Although we still have some logistical hurdles to overcome, a Golden Community Garden is starting to look a lot more realistic.  The Sustainability Board has been promoting the idea and a growing group of community residents are working hard with the city to make it all come together.  They’ve got two planning meetings on the schedule, and if you are interested in helping to pull this off please consider attending one or both.  One is tonight at 8 p.m. at the Community Center in the Beaver Brook room (8 p.m. – 8:55 p.m.).  The second is Friday morning, March 13 at Windy Saddle Cafe (1110 Washington Ave.) from 7 a.m. to 7:25 a.m.

You can learn more or get involved by sending the group an email.

4. City Using Solar Energy to Heat Community Pool

Great news on the renewable energy front: the City of Golden is now using a new solar hot water system to heat our indoor pool at the Community Center indoor pool.  Installation of a solar water heating system was one recommendation of the city’s energy audit last year and is part of the City of Golden’s effort to improve energy efficiency across city buildings and programs.  The new solar water heating system cost $315,000, more than half of which was paid for with grants.  The grant came out of the city’s partnership with the Governor’s Energy Office and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.  By using solar energy to heat our pool water, we expect to save more than $22,000 every year.

5. Council Moves Forward with Jackson Street Corridor Bike and Pedestrian Improvements

The Walkability Task Force’s highest priority recommendation last year was improvements on the Jackson Street Corridor.  Jackson is a key pedestrian and bike route to Golden High School and a major connection between the north and south parts of town but it is poorly designed for either people on foot or on bike.

We will reconfigure that entire stretch of Jackson with a “Complete Streets” design, dropping the street down to two lanes (it’s now three lanes wide) and adding bike lanes, some landscaping, and much-improved sidewalks.  Two lanes is more than enough to handle the vehicle traffic (and in fact it is two lanes both north and south of this stretch).  We’ve seen widespread community support for the project, and City Council gave staff the go-ahead to do the design work and get ready to go to bid.  Although the project isn’t budgeted until 2010, given the dramatic drop in construction prices over the past several months we are going to look at accelerating the work if it makes sense.

6. Fixing the Ethics Code Loophole

Although the City Council set extremely high standards last year for accountability and transparency, we’ve promised to set the bar even higher in 2009.  One important step: eliminate the big loophole in our ethics code.  Our code is already quite stringent (as it should be), but a quirk of the language could allow a member of the City Council to accept a gift of unlimited value so long as they accept the gift in their “personal capacity.”  To my mind, members of the City Council should not accept gifts from people that live, own property, or otherwise have interests in Golden (with some limited exceptions, like gifts from family members).  This principle seems very straightforward to me, yet our current code potentially allows anyone – say a developer who periodically asks Council for rezonings or variances – to give large gifts to members of City Council so long as they are “personal” gifts.  I want to fix this.

The concern, of course, is that if members of City Council accept gifts from community members they may give those folks special treatment.  This is exactly the issue that came up in the ethics complaint filed against Councilor Mary Weaver a couple of years ago.  Councilor Weaver accepted a gift (a loan from Marian Olson that she is not necessarily obligated to pay back) to fund her lawsuit against the city.  This seems to violate the ethics code prohibiting City Councilors from accepting gifts (including loans), but Councilor Weaver is arguing that it’s acceptable because she accepted the gift in her “personal capacity.”

This loophole is even more problematic, however, because Councilor Weaver then participated in a City Council decision in which Marian Olson – to whom she is now deeply indebted – had a direct financial interest.  Because of the potential loophole in our ethics code, I don’t know if Councilor Weaver actually violated our code or not, but I want to clarify this language so that there is no confusion moving forward.

We are scheduled to discuss this issue at our City Council meeting this Thursday night.

7. City Council Adopts Height Limits and Architectural Guidelines for Downtown Golden

When I ran for mayor I pledged to get a handle on growth in Golden.  We are doing just that, and our latest effort focused on protecting the historic and small-town character of our downtown.  After a thorough two-year process with considerable community input, City Council two weeks ago adopted architectural guidelines and height limits for downtown Golden.  These “Downtown Design Guidelines” establish the strictest height limits – three floors with an average setback of eight feet on the third floor – for Washington Avenue from about Clear Creek to about 14th St.  Taller buildings are permitted in other areas of downtown, especially to the east of Washington Avenue (between Washington Ave. and Ford St./Coors).  City Council can always issue a PUD allowing for taller buildings, but these new guidelines should mean that additional tall buildings downtown are the exception.

8. Beltway Update: Transportation Funding Bill Includes Strong Local Protections

One of the very first bills introduced in the state legislature this year was Governor Ritter’s package of transportation funding proposals.  The element of greatest concern to Golden was the tolling piece.  In its original form, it would have allowed tolling of existing lanes – like Highway 93 – right up to our boundaries, but despite the impacts we would have had no say in whether it happened or what sorts of mitigation would have to occur.  Through our hard work with the Governor’s office, legislators, and many other folks in the Denver region, we were able to eliminate the harmful part of the bill and replace it with a strong local protection provision that gives every affected community the right to veto any such proposal.  I give a lot of credit to Governor Ritter’s office, the sponsors of the bill, and my colleague mayors around the region for their willingness to negotiate in good faith and come up with a solution that protects local communities like Golden.  I also give a lot of credit to our state legislators, Representative Gwyn Green and Senator Moe Keller.  They both worked extremely hard to make sure that Golden would be protected and their efforts made a huge difference.

9. Road Closures: W. 44th and Johnson Road

Johnson Road will be closed between 10th Avenue and 6th Avenue most evenings and weekends until April 3 for utility line relocation work.  Traffic will be detoured through the Jefferson County complex.  This is an early step in the construction of the new light rail station at the Jefferson County Building.

In addition, CDOT is scheduled to close West 44th Ave between Vasquez and Easley from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. through March 11.  For eastbound traffic they recommend taking Ford St to 13thSt/W. 32nd Ave. to McIntyre.  For westbound traffic they recommend taking McIntyre to W. 32nd/13th St.  The closure is for work on the Hwy 58 overpass over W. 44th.

10. Other Upcoming Events

  • Golden Community Garden Planning Meeting, March 9 (TONIGHT).  This is a planning meeting for a new community garden at the Community Center from 8 -9 p.m.
  • Kimball/Crawford Pedestrian Improvements Open House, March 10.  This is an opportunity to review the range of options for making pedestrian improvements near Shelton Elementary.  Drop by Shelton anytime between 6 – 8 p.m.
  • Golden Vision 2030 Kickoff, March 11.  The Golden Vision 2030 “Heart & Soul of Golden” process kicks off at Golden High School.
  • Golden Community Garden Planning Meeting, March 13.  This is another planning meeting for a new community garden at Windy Saddle Cafe (1110 Washington Ave.) from 7 to 7:30 a.m.
  • “State of the City Address,” March 19.  The Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Three Tomatoes at Fossil Trace features City Manager Mike Bestor’s “State of the City” address.  You can RSVP with the Chamber at 303-279-3113.
  • Town Hall Meeting with State Senator Moe Keller and State Representative Gwyn Green, Golden City Hall, Saturday March 21.  This is a great chance to hear what’s going on the state legislature and to ask your state representative and state senator questions.  It runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • First Friday, Historic Downtown Golden, April 3.  Many of the downtown shops, stores, and restaurants stay open late, often with treats and specials.  You’ll also find entertainment and free horse drawn carriage rides (weather permitting).

11. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, March 12

Our next city council meeting is a regular business meeting on March 12.  You can download that and review minutes and videos of previous City Council meetings on the city’s web site.

The agenda includes the following issues:

  • Discussion of an update to our Ethics Code to eliminate a potential loophole.
  • Discussion of a potential update to the city’s campaign finance rules to eliminate a loophole that could allow a candidate to avoid campaign contribution limits.
  • Consideration of a potential alley vacation on the Colorado School of Mines campus.  The alley is on the block bounded by 17th Street, 18th Street, Illinois Street and Maple Street.
  • Consideration of a request for setback variances for a residential addition at 2135 Illinois.

**********

Jacob Smith, Mayor
jsmith@cityofgolden.net
(303) 216-168
www.SmithforGolden.org

Douglas County Wins Key Lawsuit Strengthening Local Government Rights on Highway Projects

Douglas County won a very important lawsuit last week clearly affirming that the county has the right to regulate Colorado Department of Transportation highway projects within its boundaries.  State law allows local governments to adopt what are known as “1041 regulations” to govern state projects under certain circumstances.  CDOT argued, however, that they should be exempt from such regulations.  In short, the court found that CDOT does not have exclusive control over all aspects of state highway construction and that Douglas County’s 1041 regulations were legitimate.

What does this mean for Golden?  While the decision specifically addressed Douglas County, we believe that it is likely to apply in Jefferson County as well.  It means that CDOT will probably be required to abide by our regulations pertaining to the site selection of major highways within our community so long as our regulations are reasonable and consistent with the authority granted to us by the state legislature.  This is yet another blow to CDOT and their obsessive insistence that they should get to build whatever they want, wherever they want, and without any regard for the needs of the local affected communities.

Toll Road Bill Soars Thru Committee

SoapBlox reports on the hearing yesterday at the State Capitol on Representative Pommer’s bill requiring toll roads to go through the same sort of environmental review, mitigation funding, and planning that other kinds of highways must go through. CINQ worked hard to organize some turnout and bunches of folks came out in support of the bill. It sounds like went pretty well: the House Transportation and Energy Committee (on which our very own Rep. Gwyn Green sits) unanimously passed the bill. I believe the bill now heads to the House floor.

While the bill wouldn’t outright ban the use of eminent domain by private tolling authorities to build toll roads, it at least forces proponents to go through the same process as everyone else. More importantly, because Rep. Pommer took the time to negotiate with the Governor at some length on the bill language, the Governor might just be willing to sign it (unlike last year’s bill, which he vetoed).

The Rocky Mountain News reported on it today as well.

Open Space, Ref. C, and Bus Terminals

Late last week I attended a briefing, hosted by the Transit Alliance, on the Union Station project in downtown Denver. I will tell you I think it's an amazingly cool project which will integrate local city buses, regional buses, light rail, Amtrack, Greyhound and other bus services, and every other kind of transit you can think of under one roof. Although I will be sad to see all the open space of the South Platte Valley (near LoDo in downtown Denver) vanish, if they pull this off it will be urban infill done right, and the entire Denver region will benefit from the incredible transit center that Union Station becomes. They just released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in case you want to dig into the details, but if you are more interested in the quick overview of what it will all look like I suggest RTD's power point presentation.Union Station has a lengthy history, and as best I can tell the project will do a good job of preserving its historic character and the large, open plaza despite the substantial expansion of the building and the complex.

This week I attended the TransitWest meeting and learned more about efforts on the I-70 corridor to push CDOT to consider something other than their typical "maximum asphalt" solution to congestion.

I also attended a briefing sponsored by the Bell Policy Center and a large bipartisan group of state legislators. They offered the clearest explanation of the state budget process I've ever heard, and made very clear that they are honoring their promises during the Ref. C campaign regarding how the legislature would spend Ref. C funds. The take-home message was pretty clear: Ref. C is allowing the state to tread water with respect to many critical programs like community colleges and other higher education funding needs, services for the mentally ill and the poor, transportation projects, K-12 education, and health care. I asked the distinguished panel (which included Senate Majority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald, our own State Senator Moe Keller, and our own State House Representative Gwyn Green) where in this process they would establish reasonable sideboards on their transportation funding to ensure that CDOT appropriately prioritizes funding for transit and appropriately considers the needs of local communities before ramming careless, ineffective, and expensive projects down their throats. No one had a particularly satisfying answer ("this is just the appropriations process and those are policy questions"), although to Representative Green's credit she did politely point out the way in which many in the state legislature defer to CDOT's arm twisting. I think decisions about appropriations are policy decisions, and the legislature has a responsibility to ensure that CDOT and all other state agencies spend the taxpayers money appropriately.

Finally, this evening I attended Plan Jeffco's annual banquet, which was in part a celebration of the protection of the Ralston property and some adjacent land owned by the Mt. Vernon Country Club. Lots of folks deserve credit for pulling off the deal, including the Northwoodside Foundation, Clear Creek Land Conservancy, Jefferson County Open Space, Mt. Vernon Country Club, and of course Plan Jeffco. I like celebrations, and celebrating the protection of important open space is particularly satisfying.

Denver Post Editorial on Toll Roads

The Denver Post today editorialized on CDOT proposals to construct toll lanes on C-470 and elsewhere. One key problem with CDOT’s proposed toll lanes on C-470, I-225, and other regional highways is that they won’t do much if anything for congestion. The basic principle is that congestion on the free lanes drives folks to pay the tolls in the new toll lanes. If the toll lanes are congested, people won’t pay tolls to use them. In other words, toll lanes don’t do much to reduce congestion precisely because they are managed to keep the volume low. This is the same motivation for the non-compete agreements that have received some attention lately in the blogosphere (see part one and part two of unbossed’s discussion and this Daily Kos post), the media, and in the state legislature.

According to the Post’s editorial, Pam Hutton of CDOT argues that we should build toll lanes where we can (presumably financing them in part based on projected toll revenues) and that doing something is better than doing nothing. I don’t think that’s right, since building toll lanes now will actually impede our ability to relieve congestion in the future. Once the toll lanes are built and private investors or whoever else has a financial stake in their continued operation as toll lanes, we aren’t likely to convert them into congestion relief lanes for a long, long time, and we’ll use up space that could have been used for congestion relief. In other words, building toll lanes that do little for congestion now is not better than nothing. It’s actually worse because it doesn’t help the problem and precludes options that might actually help at some point in the future.

Of course CDOT’s argument about the proposed superhighway through Golden is even worse. Under the best of circumstances it will require hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to subsidize construction of a superhighway that, according to all the traffic studies and models, will do little to improve congestion in the northwest quadrant.

The Denver Region Comes Up Short on Transporation Dollars

This morning I joined Mayor Baroch and Councilor Karen Oxman at the elected officials briefing sponsored by the Colorado Department of Transportation. CDOT staff gave updates on some west side projects although most won’t have any direct impact on Golden. More interestingly, Jennifer Schaufele, the executive director of the Denver Regional Council of Governments, sparred a bit with CDOT director Tom Norton over the allocation of transportation dollars across the state. When CDOT started spending money on highway projects at the beginning of the fiscal year (last fall), CDOT staff apparently forgot about their obligation (through Memoranda of Understanding with DRCOG and other regional planning organizations) to equitably distribute transportation dollars across regions of the state. They also seem to have forgotten about their legal obligation to allocate 10% of Senate Bill 1 funds to transit projects. The result is that they are now likely to short the Denver region on transportation dollars by as much as $30 million, and are proposing to allocate the transit dollars (more than $20 million) by cutting that out of the Denver region as well. Jennifer was very clear that DRCOG is unhappy with coming up short by as much as $50 million, and Tom Norton was equally clear that he didn’t much care. As Lorraine Anderson of the Arvada City Council, who sits on the COG board, pointed out during the briefing, COG seems very willing to be flexible (e.g., accept a shortfall this year if CDOT makes up for it next year), but Norton and CDOT seem pretty fixed on violating the agreement that was supposed to ensure a fair sharing of transportation dollars.

Of course there is always a concern about CDOT getting enough money to fund the beltway, but it’s in tension with some very real transportation needs including transit projects. I’ll write more on the beltway fight soon, but suffice it to point out for now how interesting it is that CDOT is picking real fights with Aurora, Douglas County, and communities on the I-70 corridor over what seem to me to be essentially the same issue: CDOT deciding it wants to build something and insisting on making it happen regardless of how it affects the local community, or what the local community’s transportation needs actually are.

DRCOG, if you don’t know, is made up of representatives from 52 local governments across the Denver Metro region. Although its highest profile role is regional transportation planning – most federal transportation dollars to the Denver region have to run through the DRCOG planning process – it also runs strong programs on regional growth planning (the Metro Vision 2030 plan), water and air quality, services for older residents of the region, and public safety programs. I represent Golden on the DRCOG board of directors and serve on the policy committee (known as the Metro Vision Issues Committee).