I-70 solutions are like traffic: Slow
Whatever solutions the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration decide for Interstate 70, they and the people stuck in traffic will have something in common – neither is going anywhere very fast.
That’s little comfort to visitors to the High Country or to locals who cannot avoid a trip to or from Denver when traffic is slowed to a halt.
Here’s the reality of the situation. The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that will set solutions in policy will not be done until late 2005, at best.
Whatever the solutions are, more lanes or mass transit, would then depend on site-specific environmental impact studies and the big unknown – money.
Nobody knows where the money is coming from. CDOT estimates it will have $1 billion to spend in the next 20 years. But that is so dependent on federal and state politics, saying there might be $1 billion available is like saying the Rockies might win the World Series.
The range of solutions for the interstate start at about $1.9 billion for six-laning of the interstate in Clear Creek County and $5.6 billion for an undefined fixed-guideway system.
Meanwhile, the interstate already is in crisis during summer and winter weekends. Summer is worse than winter.
Cecilia Joy, CDOT’s planning and environmental engineer for the region, is in charge of the PEIS and knows more about the heavily studied highway corridor than she does about her family.
“We do believe some travel is suppressed,” she told the Summit Daily News editorial board. “We’ve talked to people who aren’t going to the mountains.”
She also observed the traffic peaks are being spread by the growth in second home ownership by people on the Front Range.
Separate to the PEIS process is another CDOT initiative that local policy-makers and concerned citizens should try to influence, CDOT’s 2030 Plan.
The 2030 Plan sets up project priorities for future funding.
Having said all of this, we need to say the PEIS is important. It sets up future funding possibilities. The 2030 Plan is important, too. It ranks funding priorities.
Local elected officials, business interests, state legislators and concerned citizens at some point must unite around a common solution and then work to wrangle the money from Washington and Denver.
Opinions published in this space are formulated by members of the Summit Daily News editorial board: Michael Bennett, Jim Pokrandt, Jason Starr, Rachel Toth, Reid Williams, Kim Nicoletti and Martha Lunsky.
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