A step forward for sustainable transportation in metro Denver

by Jill Locantore on February 12, 2015

Draft plan allocates nearly $40 million to bicycle and pedestrian projects

Colfax Josephine Bus Stop Cropped Google Image Capture May 2014

One of the projects in DRCOG’s draft funding plan is improvements to bus shelters along Colfax, such as this stop at Colfax and Josephine.  Google image capture from May 2014.

On January 21, the board of directors of the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) took a significant step forward for sustainable transportation in the metro area, by voting to support a draft 5 year funding plan that allocates significant funding toward bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and for moving forward on bus rapid transit (BRT).

First a bit of background. The DRCOG board is made up of elected officials from more than 50 cities and counties in the Denver area, who work together on regional land use and transportation planning. DRCOG has the responsibility to allocate some of the federal transportation funds that come to the metro area. Most of these funds are flexible, meaning that DRCOG can decide whether to spend them on expanding roads, adding bike lanes, or improving public transit. Local governments apply for projects, and the board decides which ones to fund.

DRCOG is one of those important agencies that can seem obscure to members of the public, but whose decisions really help shape the character of the entire region.  It helps to shape where communities expand, and whether our transportation infrastructure forces people to drive, or gives them choices in how they travel.

One thing that stands out is that every time the DRCOG call for funding proposals goes out, the greatest demand by far is for bicycle and pedestrian projects. Communities applied for 68 different bike projects, totaling over $160 million dollars. In the bad old days, the board would seldom allocate any money to bike projects beyond the minimum required by federal law, using flexible funds mainly for road projects. But over the last few funding cycles, elected officials have come to understand just how important it is to have communities where residents can safely and comfortably walk and bike, and have been gradually increasing funding.

This time around, in a real victory for smart planning, the board supported the most multimodal of the scenarios that were considered, allocating nearly $40 million, a full 22% of the money available, to bike and ped projects. Some highlights include many improvements coming to biking in Aurora, including bike connections to light rail stations and improvements in the Montview Ave area; improvements to Washington Ave in Golden, and improvements to bike access near the new bus rapid transit station in east Boulder.  In Denver, there will be funding to start improving the bus shelters along Colfax, as a step towards bringing BRT to the Colfax corridor, and to expand the MetroRide service between Union Station and the Civic Center.
Free Metro Ride Source RTD

The free MetroRide bus.  Photo source: RTD.

The board also supported funding for several important steps toward expanded bus rapid transit, including funding the next steps in design for BRT on the Longmont diagonal highway, a study of BRT service along state highway 7, and most importantly a regional BRT study to set the stage for future BRT expansion across the metro area.

DRCOG will hold a public hearing on the draft plan on March 18.

This article was contributed by Will Toor, the director of the transportation program at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and a former elected official who spent 15 years on the DRCOG board.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: