New transportation roadmap calls for a recalibration of funding toward buses, biking, safety, and people-oriented land use and main streets

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DENVER — Recognizing the path to Colorado’s 2030 transportation system begins with the decisions made in 2022, a coalition of transit, biking, and walking advocates released a new roadmap calling for a recalibration of today’s transportation dollars to meet the state’s future needs safely and efficiently while reducing pollution and the historical inequities that come from a lack of clean, travel options.

The new roadmap, released by Bicycle Colorado, CoPIRG, SWEEP, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the Denver Streets Partnership, comes as state and local leaders are working to finalize a list of transportation projects to be included in the regional Transportation Improvement Plans (TIP) and the statewide 10-year transportation plan. To successfully rebalance our transportation system, hundreds of millions must be shifted away from highway capacity projects, which would exacerbate the current imbalance in Colorado’s transportation system.  

With CDOT and Front Range agencies poised to prioritize approximately $4 billion in transportation investments over the next year, the roadmap calls on decision makers to rebalance our transportation system by focusing dollars on five major areas:

  1. Build out the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and significantly expand transit service statewide;
  2. Complete a safe and connected regional active transportation network;
  3. Meet Vision Zero goals by protecting vulnerable users and investing in safety measures on the high-injury networks that make up our most dangerous streets;
  4. Upgrade all Main Streets to be people-friendly Complete Streets;
  5. Foster livable, walkable communities with policies supporting equitable Transit-Oriented Development and location-efficient land use to reduce vehicle trips and pollution.

“We’re asking our leaders to take bold action by rebalancing funding from costly road expansion projects to clean transportation that increases travel options and decreases greenhouse gas emissions,” said Rachel Hultin, sustainable transportation director for Bicycle Colorado and lead author of the report. “We can move on from congested streets and highways that pollute our air and reduce our quality of life, and now is the time to make it happen with the unprecedented influx of federal and state transportation funding in transit, biking, and walking coming to Colorado.”

The groups delivered their vision, Recalibrating Transportation, to leaders at CDOT and regional planning organizations like the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), which will be making major planning and funding decisions in the next few months, including finalizing the state’s 10-year transportation plan and identifying projects for the TIPs. 

Each year hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to try to increase the ability for people in cars to travel quickly while many Coloradans lack safe, reliable options to reach their destination without relying on a car. 

Without alternatives to driving, people and goods are stuck in worsening traffic across the state. Air pollution is setting records and climate change is fueling extreme weather and drought, with disproportionate impacts on those who live closest to major roads and highways. Every year hundreds of people die unnecessarily on our streets when hit by motorists, making options like walking and riding a bike unsafe.  

The vision calls for investing Colorado’s transportation dollars in the expansion of transit, walking, and biking—rather than expanding road capacity for single-occupancy vehicles. Communities can further improve access to sustainable transportation options by supporting more compact and walkable land use patterns and updating their zoning policies to allow for infill, and mixed-use development in less car-dependent neighborhoods.

“For far too long our state’s transportation investments have focused on moving vehicles, instead of moving people. Now is the time for leaders to make a shift and invest in a Bus Rapid Transit network in the Denver region and significantly expand public transit service statewide,” said Molly McKinley, policy director for Denver Streets Partnership. “Coloradans need more transportation options and investments in public transit are critical to meeting our state’s air quality and climate goals.”

“Land use and housing policies shape our communities and determine where we travel, how we travel, and how much it costs,” said Matt Frommer, senior transportation associate with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). “Yet, transportation and land use planning are traditionally siloed. Our governments must take steps to build more walkable and transit-oriented communities to reduce car-dependence and improve access to jobs, schools, shopping, and other destinations by transit, biking, and walking.”

“More than $660 billion of federal funds will be spent on transportation projects nationally in the next five years,” said Martha Roskowski, one of the report co-authors. “We can choose to use that funding on projects that reduce air pollution, slow climate change and address the historic and current inequities in our system. Colorado can lead the way by investing in projects that help people, the economy and the environment.” 

“One of the best ways to prevent injuries and death along our streets is to ensure people have safe ways to travel no matter the mode,” said Danny Katz, executive director of CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group). “We can have safe, people-friendly streets if we focus our dollars on our high-injury networks, building complete streets that have safe spaces for people to walk, and move beyond funding individual bike lanes and build out a complete network.”   

In the roadmap, the authors presented specific recommendations for CDOT, regional planning organizations like DRCOG, and local governments to fund this year in order to rebalance our transportation system. For example:

  • Fully fund BRT projects – The coalition highlighted needed investments that could be made in the Denver region now, including Colfax Ave from Osage to I-225; Federal Blvd from 120th to Santa Fe; Colorado Blvd from the A Line to I-25; Alameda from Wadsworth to the RTD R Line; and along SH-119 and SH-7.
  • Bicycle network – In order to fully fund construction of a regional, active transportation network, the coalition highlighted needed investments now in the SH 119 Bikeway from Boulder to Longmont; the SH-7 Multi Use Path from Boulder to Brighton; the US 85 / Plum Creek Trail from the Chatfield State Park to Castle Rock section of the Front Range Trail; the South Havana Bikeway; and 32nd Avenue from Ford Street to Elderidge and along Smith Road 
  • Fund Vision Zero safety improvements – Highlighted corridors included Colfax, Federal and Peoria, the three most dangerous corridors in the DRCOG Region
  • Fund Complete Streets projects – The coalition highlighted that the FY 2024-2027 TIP and the first 4 years of the update to the 10-Year Plan should include complete street projects along West Colfax, Broadway, Federal, in the cities of Longmont and Lyons, and in Franktown at Hwy 83.
  • Livable, walkable communities – The coalition called for an update of the FY 2024-2027 calls 3 and 4 TIP scoring criteria with significantly weighted scoring for projects that support transit oriented development and incorporate location-efficient land use strategies.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is statutorily required to update the 10-Year plan by October of 2022 to meet recently set greenhouse gas emission targets. To meet that goal, it is expected that the CDOT Transportation Commission will review the proposed 10-Year plan by August and entities like DRCOG and the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization (NFRMPO) will need to update their TIPs before then.  

The full Recalibrating Transportation report can be found here