Archive for February, 2006

Golden’s Brooke Sauer Makes Wrestling History

February 27, 2006

Hats off to Golden High School senior Brooke Sauer, the first girl ever to qualify for Colorado’s high school wrestling tournament. Sauer went into the Tournament with a 26-12 record. MSNBC also reported that Michaela Hutchinson of Skyview High School in Soldotna, Alaska earlier this month became the first girl in the nation to win a state title with a 45-4 record. The Golden Transcript and the Denver Post also ran stories. I know that pioneers often want to be remembered for being good at what they do, not for being pioneers, but Sauer and Hutchinson get credit for both.

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Denver Post Editorial on Toll Roads

February 26, 2006

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

February 25, 2006

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).

Air Pollution in Golden

February 24, 2006

I recently came across the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory web site. You can plug in any zip code – 80401, for instance – and see who is releasing what into the air. Coors, CoorsTek, Rocky Mountain Metal Container, and Trigen-Nations Energy Co. all make the list, not suprisingly given that they all include large manufacturing operations. The latter tops the list at nearly 300,000 pounds (in 2003), mostly of hydrochloric acid and hydrogen flouride. Two other interesting air quality sites are the EPA’s Air Data site and the Pollution Information Site.

Closing the Hesteds Deal

February 14, 2006

The big news in Golden today is the closing of the Hesteds deal downtown. The project, dubbed Gateway Station, will begin with the remediation of the PCE (also known as perchloroethylene,
tetrachloroethylene, PERC, and perclene) contamination in the old dry cleaner’s building. When that’s finished – probably late spring or early summer – we’ll see asbestos abatement, demolition, and then construction of the new mixed-use development. I understand the concerns and share the apprehension, but after being vacant for a quarter of a century I think this project will be a really good thing – a well-designed mixed-use infill development – for downtown Golden.