Options aim to streamline beltway

Glenn Wallace
Posted

Plans to improve the west side of the Denver metro area’s 470 beltway system could include an express lane.

The C-470 Coalition is expected to make decision today on how to fund proposed improvements to southern sections of C-470.

The Jeffco commissioners received a status update on the C-470 Coalition work, along with one about the county’s own “western” beltway study during their Jan. 29 meeting.

Douglas County commissioners, along with Jefferson County and other stakeholders, started the C-470 Coalition in 2011 with the goal to develop and implement improvements to the C-470 corridor that would make the freeway safer and less congested.

The coalition developed an interim goal of providing one additional lane of traffic in both directions from Interstate 25 to Kipling Street.

The coalition has three main options its considering to pay for the $200 million needed for those new lanes: make the new lanes “Express Toll Lanes,” make all of C-470 into toll lanes, or use taxes (sales tax or property tax) inside an “area of Benefit.”

Jeffco Transportation and Engineering Director Kevin French said the likely consensus from the coalition members is that the express toll lane option is both the easiest to achieve (built by 2017), and would be the most acceptable to the public once built.

“It would give drivers the option, whether or not to use the toll lanes,” French said, adding that studies looking at similar express lanes show commuters would use the faster lanes an average of four times a week.

French said the coalition had done public surveys to see which funding method would be preferred, and found tolling of any sort, typically scored low.

“The most-approved option really isn’t on the table … wanting someone else to pay,” French said.

Once the first segment’s work is complete, the coalition is tasked with looking at the second segment of C-470, from Kipling to I-70.

French also gave an update on a $700,000 county-only study, taking a macro-look at the western half of the 470 beltway.

Jeffco Commission Chair Donald Rosier, District 3, said the expense of the study had been criticized.

“There’s pieces of the road that haven’t even been studied, or looked at, so we’re in danger of having all the pieces but not seeing the big picture,” Rosier said.

French said that his department has proposed using $190,000 of the study funding to carry out “a good public input, and marketing plan” to gauge awareness and support for the beltway in general, as well as to see what funding methods might be preferred to pay for future roadway development.

District 2 Commissioner Casey Tighe cautioned that the county should keep an open mind about funding possibilities, including looking at taxation.

“Tolling doesn’t have to be the answer,” Tighe said.

French said the first part of the study should be complete by June. Phase two would involve traffic analysis and cost estimates.

He said the total cost is still expected to be $700,000 and that the funds would come from money already earmarked for parkway/beltway development.

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