Archive for the ‘Billion Dollar Boondoggle’ Category

Committee Vote on Bill to Protect Schools From Air Pollution

March 25, 2007

Representative Gwyn Green’s bill to help protect school children from harmful air pollution caused by highway traffic is scheduled for a vote in the House Education Committee Monday afternoon. House Bill 1293 would require school boards to consult with the state health department on health risks for new school sites before building new schools new highways and roads and would require CDOT to also consult the health department before building new roads near schools. A recent study in California found that children attending schools near highways are at higher risk of developing asthma or other serious health conditions. The playground at Mitchell Elementary is a short 84 feet from Highway 93. If CDOT’s vision of a six- or eight-lane superhighway through Golden were ever to become a reality that distance could become even shorter. You’ll find more info at the Mothers for Clean Air web site, including a list of legislators on the committee. If you have a moment you might call them Monday morning and express your opinion before their vote. You’ll find a fresh news story on the News 2 web site.

CINQ and JeffCo Commissioner Kevin McCaskey on KOA

February 5, 2007

Rob Medina, CINQ’s president, will face off against Jefferson County Commissioner Kevin McCaskey on the Mike Rosen show on Wednesday morning (February 7) on the proposal to build a high-speed superhighway through Golden.  Tune in (850 AM) at 10:00 a.m. and call in with your questions (303-713-8585).

New Study Shows Link Between Highways and Lung Damage in Kids

January 29, 2007

The Denver Post a few days ago ran a story (which it pulled from the L.A. Times) on a new study showing that children living near busy highways experience serious lung problems that can lead to lifelong respiratory problems.  As the Post article explains:

“Children living near busy highways have significant impairments in the development of their lungs that can lead to respiratory problems for the rest of their lives, University of Southern California researchers have found in the largest and longest study of its kind.
The 13-year study of more than 3,600 children in 12 Southern California communities found that the damage from living near a freeway is about the same as that from living in communities with the highest pollution levels, the team reported Thursday in the online version of the medical journal Lancet.”

The fact that the Highway 93 is only 80 feet from the Michell Elementary playground and 300 from the front door is certainly cause for concern.

NW Parkway Bonds Take Another Dive

December 4, 2006

In case you missed it, the Northwest Parkway’s bonds were downgraded again last week. The Northwest Parkway has about $420 million in outstanding bonds, and Fitch Ratings downgraded these bonds to CCC+ (from BB-) with a “negative” rating outlook. As Fitch Ratings explains it, a CCC rating “means that default is a real possibility and capacity for meeting financial commitments is solely reliant upon sustained, favorable business or economic conditions.”

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

October 2, 2006

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.

Northwest Corridor Update

September 28, 2006

Yesterday, I and a number of other Golden City Councilors met with the county commissioners, Transporation Commissioner Joe Jehn, and several CDOT staffers to look for areas of agreement.

My view on the proposed superhighway through Golden is straightforward:  No six- or eight-lane superhighway.  I support transporation improvements in the Northwest Quadrant but only under seven conditions:

  1. No more than four lanes through Golden.
  2. No tolling through Golden.
  3. A speed limit of 45 mph by design (i.e., the roadway must rely on a “serpentine” parkway design, or something comparable, that keeps vehicle speeds low).
  4. Substantial noise mitigation, with a noise limit of 55 db through Golden.
  5. Grade-separated intersections (i.e., on and off ramps instead of traffic lights).
  6. Improved connections between neighborhoods on both sides of the highway (along 93 and Highway 6).
  7. A commitment, with funding, to make appropriate improvements on other north-south arterials in the region, like Indiana and McIntyre.

County Commissioner Kevin McCasky made clear that he (and presumably the entire County Commission) was willing to settle on four lanes so long as we reserve the rights of way for two additional lanes should the need ever arise, and he seemed open to all of the other concerns.  A small step, to be sure, but it is movement in the right direction.  As the funding picture becomes bleaker, and as new revelations about the sorry financial state of the existing Northwest Parkway come to light almost weekly, I think we’ll see an increasing interest on the part of the county and state to make something work.  I’m in no rush at all to make a deal . . . we’ll take a deal when it offers us everything we need.

I also want to be clear that I think a new, large superhighway through what is now largely open space in northern Jefferson County is a terrible idea, especially given that the traffic numbers don’t support it, but my first obligation is to ensuring that whatever happen in Golden be done in a way that improves traffic flow and improves the quality of life here through reduced noise, air pollution, and traffic congestion.

The Denver Post ran a story this morning (“Golden: Toll road won’t fly”) about yesterday’s meeting, and I found a YourHub post entitled Demand Accountability for Foibles of NW Parkway” that might be of interest as well.

Jeffco Candidate Forum on Transportation Issues: Sept. 25

September 11, 2006

In case you hadn’t already heard, Plan Jeffco, CINQ, and a host of other groups are hosting a Jefferson County Candidate’s Forum on Transportation issues on Monday, September 25 from 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. The invited candidates include folks running in gubernatorial, county commission, congressional, and state legislative races. Issues on the agenda include the proposed superhighway through Golden, the I-70 mountain corridor, proposed toll lanes on C-470, and mass transit issues. You can also read the candidates’ responses to PLAN Jeffco’s transportation questionnaire on the PLAN Jeffco web site [although I can’t find it on their site, so if anyone has the direct link please post it as a comment to this blog post]. Some of the confirmed participants include Ed Perlmutter and Rick O’Donnell (running in the 7th Congressional District, which includes Golden) and Kathy Hartman and Dave Auburn (running for County Commission in Jeffco).

The forum is at the American Mountaineering Center (710 Tenth Street) in Golden. Admission is free.

Northwest Parkway in the News

September 5, 2006

In case you didn’t notice, there was a lot of newsprint over the last several days on the Northwest Parkway and its continued struggle to remain solvent, including a good letter to the editor by Rob Medina in today’s Denver Post:

Denver Post – August 29, 2006: Investors explore leasing NW Parkway.

Denver Post – August 29, 2006: Troubled parkway looks to sell.

Denver Post editorial – August 29, 2006: Lease plan may aid Northwest Parkway.

Rocky Mountain News – August 29, 2006: Money-losing toll road seeks partner.

Rocky Mountain News – August 29, 2006: Northwest toll road seeks private operator.

Denver Post – August 30, 2006: Northwest Parkway for lease.

Rocky Mountain News – August 30, 2006: Debt figure doesn’t count millions in interest.

Rocky Mountain News – August 30, 2006: Toll road looks for debt help.

Rocky Mountain News – August 30, 2006: Blake: Bailing out NW Parkway.

Rocky Mountain News editorial – September 2, 2006: Parkway in a bind.

Denver Post – September 5, 2006: Letters to the Editor.

Colorado Municipal League Annual Meeting and Conference

June 26, 2006

I took three days off of work and headed up to Breckenridge for the annual meeting and conference of the Colorado Municipal League. If you don’t know, CML provides resources to local communities like ours and advocates for the interests of local governments at the state legislature and elsewhere. I find the annual meetings valuable (I went last year and now this year) in part because of the speakers and panels. I am very interested in learning and improving on the skills required to be effective as an elected representative and CML is a good opportunity to do that.

The issues covered in sessions I attended sessions included:

• ethics and ethics standards for elected representatives.
• open meeting laws and rules
• economic development in small towns
• quasi-judicial processes
• municipal budgeting and financial management
• climate change and municipal climate change action plans

I already wrote a bit about the climate change panel, and I wrote a bit about the Ethics in Government Initiative, one of the subjects discussed during the panel on ethics.

One of the lunch speakers was Jim Hunt, a City Councilor from Clarksburg, West Virginia and the president of the National League of Cities (the national version of the Colorado Municipal League). He focused on building inclusive communities, and speaks from the experience of serving a community with a long history of deep racial divisions. He is encouraging local communities to commit to becoming more inclusive, with a particular focus on two themes:

  • Promoting equal opportunity and fairness.
  • Promoting citizen participation and engagement.

The City Councils in Brighton, Lafayette, and Lakewood at least one other city – I think Lakewood but don’t remember for sure – have all adopted resolutions commiting to improving the inclusiveness of their communities. I strongly support these goals and look forward to exploring ways we can forward both of them.

The other reason I attend CML is for the opportunity to continue building relationships with elected representatives from other communities across Colorado, especially our neighbors in the Denver Metro area. As I’ve written and said many times before, some of our most important challenges in Golden are regional challenges, and we can’t hope to succeed without good relationships with other communities in the region. We have almost no chance of improving Golden’s air quality unless we work closely with the neighboring communities where so much of the air pollution is generated. The same is true if we hope to continue improving on the region’s transit system. Of course the fight over the superhighway fits into the same category: to defeat the proposed Billion Dollar Boondoggle and instead make real improvements that actually benefit Golden and the region we have to work closely with our neighbors across the region.

The Toll Road Fight Heats Up (Again)

May 29, 2006

If you haven’t yet seen the most recent Denver Post articles on toll roads, they are worth checking out. Today's was called "No 2-Way Street". The others so far include "Roads to Riches: Paved With Bad Projections" and "Northwest Parkway: Has Roots in Suspect Mergings". They do a good job of exposing the pattern of financial failure and community impacts of so many toll roads about the country.

Incidentally, you'll find two good posts on the Denver Post stories in Daily Kos and unbossed.

As for our own fight, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) will soon be making some critical decisions that will have a considerable effect on our fight to protect Golden from the Owens-Norton Billion Dollar Boondoggle. I represent Golden on the Board and have spent lots of energy building relationships with other board members, especially trying to illuminate how so many of us – Douglas County, Aurora, communities on the I-70 mountain corridor – are fighting exactly the same fight: challenging CDOT’s arrogant view that they should be able to build whatever they want wherever they want without regard for actual effects on transportation and the impacts to local communities.

The upcoming Colorado Municipal League conference in late June is an important opportunity to cement these relationships with elected representatives from other communities and ensure that we succeed in our collective fight to force CDOT to consider the needs of local communities in their decisions. I will be there.