The city council of Broomfield — one of three entities who formed the original Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA) more than a decade ago — unanimously voted to withdraw from …
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The city council of Broomfield — one of three entities who formed the original Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA) more than a decade ago — unanimously voted to withdraw from JPPHA on Feb. 25. And four months later, the city is still waiting to find out how exactly it can withdraw.
Broomfield, Arvada and Jefferson County have been working together as the JPPHA to design and build the Jefferson Parkway, a proposed toll road that would run through northwest Arvada and connect state highways 93 and 128.
But Broomfield recently chose to withdraw from the project because of concerns over the road's proximity to Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons plant near Indiana Street and W. 120th Avenue.
Dozens of residents asked the Broomfield council to withdraw from JPPHA, fearful that construction of the road would stir up leftover plutonium in the Rocky Flats area, putting the public at a greater risk for developing cancer.
Prior to that, JPPHA had begun conducting a soil study in May 2019 to verify the proposed route was safe to build through. JPPHA reported one sample to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, or CDPHE, which tested for 264 pCi/g of plutonium, while the established safety standard is 50 pCi/g.
The sample was tested a second time with a result of less than 2 pCi/g. All samples have since been tested with no additional potential hotspots found.
While the CDPHE had been planning to issue a final review of the study in the spring of 2020, it has informed JPPHA that “present circumstances (the COVID-19 pandemic) have put the Rocky Flats soil sample review on a lower priority for the state,” said JPPHA's executive director, Bill Ray, in a May email.
But even with the second test of the noteworthy sample coming back at less than 2 pCi/g, the Broomfield city council's concern over the safety and environmental impacts were too great for the city to stay in JPPHA.
Before the Broomfield vote, JPPHA was waiting on the results of the soil study, after which it planned to proceed with the process of choosing a private partner to build the road. Construction was expected to begin some time after the partner was chosen.
The day after the Broomfield council's decision, a JPPHA statement said the authority planned to “contemplate the next steps for the Parkway" in light of the withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has caused delays in Broomfield's withdrawal process, said Broomfield's mayor, Pat Quinn.
The other JPPHA members “haven't had a chance to come back to us with what their terms of withdrawal are,” he said. Those terms could be financial, “they may ask for right of way considerations … I don't know what they could ask.”
The authority's establishing contract gave each of the three entities the power to withdraw from JPPHA, but “unanimous consent of the board is required for approval,” the contract says.
“No such termination, dissolution or withdrawal shall be effective until and unless satisfactory provisions have been made to discharge all the obligations of the Authority … in a manner that will protect the rights and interest of the holders of such obligations,” it continues.
Arvada's communications manager, Ben Irwin, said discussion around terms of withdrawal for Broomfield have been on hold during the pandemic. However, the city expects its negotiations with Jefferson County and Broomfield to resume in the coming weeks.
Jefferson County Development and Transportation Director Jeanie Rossillon likewise said the decision could move to the top of the county's to-do list in the near future.
“There is no timeline on the withdrawal, but during the next few months, staff will be working on some ideas that will be satisfactory to all parties so that unanimous decision can be made,” she said.
Regardless of the terms, Broomfield still plans to end its participation in JPPHA, Quinn said.
He highlighted the city's understanding of the current circumstance and its impacts on negotiations; but he added there is a sense of urgency for the city to finalize and prepare for the impact of its withdrawal.
“We know there are amounts we owe,” Quinn said. “They need to put these numbers out there so we can have a business discussion with them.”
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