The Denver Regional Council of Governments board voted April 16 against adding the Jefferson Parkway to its 2025 Regional Transportation Plan. …
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The Denver Regional Council of Governments board voted April 16 against adding the Jefferson Parkway to its 2025 Regional Transportation Plan.
Proponents of the final leg of the metrowide beltway hoped to speed up the road’s arrival, but the DRCOG board had other ideas.
About two dozen Golden-area residents attacked the plan during the meeting’s public comment period, while Arvada officials supported the effort.
DRCOG Executive Director Bill Vidal said that an interim 2025 Regional Transportation Plan was created after the 2020 plan expired. DRCOG received numerous transportation requests from governments that didn’t want to wait for the 2030 plan to be written, which would slow up their ability to apply for funding.
DRCOG set specific criteria that projects would have to meet to be included in the interim 2025 plan. Specifically, funding sources needed to be identified and documented, interchange projects needed a draft Colorado Department of Transportation feasibility study, and project development and environmental clearance had to be well under way. The board found the Jefferson Parkway had not met those criteria.
Attorney George Kaplan, who was hired by the city of Golden to advise the Golden City Council on parkway opposition, sent a letter dated March 11 to DRCOG expressing the city’s objection the parkway plan.
“These proposed ... amendments do not meet the requirements set forth in the Denver Regional Council of Government’s January call for projects or the requirements for metropolitan planning and transportation conformity under federal law,” the letter said.
It also said approval of the parkway would undermine the regional planning process and expose the entire Regional Transportation Plan to noncompliance with federal requirements. The letter gave specific reasons the project does not meet DRCOG’s requirements.
“Indeed, the Jefferson Parkway proposal does not have a defined start, finish, or alignment that is remotely adequate for assessing regional traffic or air quality impacts. The projects are simply not ripe for inclusion in the RTP,” the letter said.
Golden residents went to the meeting at DRCOG headquarters in Cherry Creek to ask the board not to make exceptions to its own rules for the parkway, echoing the concerns of city officials. Each was limited to three minutes.
Citizens Involved in the Northwest Quadrant board members Elliott Brown and Tom Atkins spoke first during the public comment period, and both sited the Northwest Quadrant Feasibility Study, which does not recommend a parkway to handle traffic in the corridor.
“(Jeffco) Commissioner (Rick) Sheehan asked me to be factual tonight, so I brought a copy of it (the Northwest Quadrant Feasibility Study). Since it was published, there has been a systematic misinformation process,” Brown said. “Nowhere in this document is there a recommendation for a beltway connection — not for a transportation solution. I would suggest it (the Jefferson Parkway) is for development reasons.”
Atkins said that the Northwest Quadrant Feasibility Study was conducted publicly, and the proponents of the beltway “didn’t like that much.” He said proponents, namely the cities of Arvada and Broomfield and the Jefferson County commissioners, are avoiding another public process by participating in a nonprofit group where they are able to invite solicitations from developers behind closed doors.
Other Goldenites who opposed the parkway during the public comment period included City Councilwoman Gwyn Green, former Mayor Jan Schenck, and residents Matt Richdeau, Edie Gayle, and Dick Sugg.
Arvada City Councilman Mark Williams was allowed to group his public comment time with two other unnamed individuals to make a 10-minute multimedia presentation.
“We’ve prepared a video presentation, rather than simply parading a bunch of people before you, that dispels the myths,” Williams said. “I was lobbied heavily by Goldenites for the C-470 link to Golden. ... I find it ironic that Golden’s position has changed. The nonprofit is going to be put on hold while the EIS (environmental impact study) takes place, so they’ve thrown that up as a scare crow, but it doesn’t exist.”
Arvada’s video said the Jefferson Parkway could be completed in as little as six years, it would create jobs and would carry more than 30,000 vehicles a day. The narrator said building the parkway is inevitable, as it is already included in DRCOG’s Metro Vision plan, and postponing it until 2030 would simply increase the cost by millions of dollars.
The video claimed that fears of development along the beltway are unfounded because of extensive surrounding open space. It said the 2001 Northwest Quadrant Feasibility Study’s alternative proposals would cost $900 million and would still result in congestion in 15 years.
The video said four of five Arvada citizens support the beltway connection.
After Arvada’s presentation, Edie Bryan, a former Lakewood City Councilwoman and former RTD Southwest Corridor light-rail board member, took the podium.
She said a failed tax on vehicle licenses proved the road wasn’t supported. “I’m here to remind you of the discredited W-470 vote in February 1989 — an 81 percent no vote. Please defer from putting this on the 2025 plan. It still has many of the same concerns,” Bryan said. “ After all of this time, why is there still no agreed upon route? The proponents of W-470 at the time had a study showing the cities would lose jobs, contrary to what this video just declared. ... If you want to go against the expressed wishes of the voters, maybe you ought to put it on the ballot again.”
With that, Jefferson Economic Council treasurer and Kiewit Construction president Bob Mattucci said that Interstate 225 opened up a corridor for Aurora, and the Jefferson Parkway would do the same in Jeffco.
Atkins then reapproached the podium and asked if he could add on to his comments, since he had used up his full three minutes. When DRCOG board chair Melanie Whorley said no, Atkins continued anyway.
“In light of the presentation just given, I would ask your indulgence. For citizens who have made so much effort to be involved, it’s very disappointing to see the rules for the plan broken,” Atkins said. “Just like it’s disappointing when you tell me, as a citizen, that I have three minutes, and then allow an Arvada city councilman up here for 10 minutes with a multimedia presentation.”
When the board began its discussion, most said they were disinclined to approve a project that had not met the criteria. Vidal said that approving the project would require the board to open up the process to other projects that had not applied because they didn’t meet the criteria.
“All of these projects are on the Metro Vision plan. So we’re not arguing whether or not these projects should be done, but whether it should be in the interim 2025 plan,” Vidal said.
“Why should we put this on the RTP now when the studies and funding haven’t been done?” asked Golden City Councilman Bill McKee. “There’s some kind of political shenanigans going on here.”
Arvada City Councilwoman Lorraine Anderson said a letter included in the Metro Vision packet confirms funding for the parkway from a bonding authority. She said the EIS is now under way and the project needed to be included on the 2025 plan to begin air quality studies.
“Our (DRCOG) criteria just do not apply to toll roads, plain and simple,” she said, suggesting that perhaps DRCOG should create special criteria for toll projects like the parkway.
Her arguments didn’t appear to sway many. Jefferson County Commissioner Rick Sheehan, a member of the DRCOG board, expressed his disappointment before the vote was cast.
“Maybe I should be magnanimous and just pull the project, but it would be a disservice to the residents of Jefferson County,” Sheehan said. “I, for one, intend to keep fighting for it at every opportunity I can.
Sheehan was one of only eight votes for the parkway’s inclusion on the 2025 RTP. There were 24 votes against the inclusion.
After the meeting and again at the Golden City Council meeting the following night, McKee commended the DRCOG board for its commitment to “stick to its standards.”
“Despite what we heard about the votes being all lined up to pass this thing, the board voted overwhelmingly against it,” McKee said. “I’m hoping this is a wake up call for Jeffco and Arvada to start taking us seriously.”
Golden Mayor Pro Tem Dave Ketchum cautioned Goldenites not to begin “whooping victory.”
“Last night’s battle does not stop anything,” Ketchum said. “It’s still going to be on the 2030 plan, which starts this fall. ... It was just one small skirmish.”
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