Creating a complete transportation system for Colorado

by Jill Locantore on August 31, 2016

New report estimates what it would cost to build out bicycle, pedestrian and transit infrastructure statewide.

46th Ave and Shoshone CollageJust one Denver intersection, 46th and Shoshone, provides examples of good, bad, and ugly sidewalk conditions common throughout the state.

Article by Jenny Niemann, WalkDenver Policy Committee member

What infrastructure should we be building to adequately meet Colorado’s transportation needs over the next 25 years? We commonly hear about the amount of funding needed to build and maintain all of the state’s roads, but other modes of transportation are often an afterthought. The Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Partnership (SWEEP) therefore took on the task of estimating how many new bike facilities, sidewalks and transit routes our state needs for a truly multimodal transportation system that supports Colorado’s rapidly growing population. WalkDenver is proud to be a contributing author on the final report released last month.

The report, Colorado’s Transit, Biking and Walking Needs Over the Next 25 Years estimates that Colorado should increase investments in transit, biking and walking by $1.05 billion every year for the next 25 years for to ensure all Coloradoans have access to the many benefits of these “active” transportation modes. This investment:

“Builds a complete sidewalk system in cities and towns across Colorado; brings intracity bike infrastructure up to the standards of the best communities in Colorado and adds regional bicycle connections and safer biking options along rural highway shoulders; and would bring good transit service to the major Colorado population centers, provide fare-free service in the Denver metro area, complete over a dozen local bus rapid transit lines, and build out a comprehensive statewide, intercity transit system including dozens of buses from Denver to ski areas and demand response bus service to meet the growing rural transit needs.”

It’s no secret that the state of Colorado and local governments have historically underfunded active transportation. For example, consider one of the most basic types infrastructure required for a complete transportation system: sidewalks. Because many communities leave the construction and repair of sidewalks entirely up to private property owners, Colorado cities and towns are missing an estimated 6,000 miles of sidewalks. Building out a complete sidewalk network over the next 25 years would require an annual investment of  $133.9 million per year.  Maintaining both existing and new sidewalks would require an additional $109.7 million per year to ensure the entire system remains in good condition and accessible to all Coloradoans.

The report details the many benefits of investments in active transportation infrastructure, including maintaining housing affordability, reductions in traffic fatalities, and the environmental and health benefits associated with transit, biking and walking. It envisions a Colorado that fully supports a wide array of transportation options, giving our growing population a choice between modes, whether you’re a retiree in Jefferson County who relies on transit or a child in Grand Junction who wants to be able to walk to school.

The report also makes recommendations for state, regional, and local policies that will help address this critical funding need. Here in Denver, City Council is currently considering several different funding options specifically for sidewalks.  

Read the entire report here.

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