Putting our money where our streets are: a look at the 2019 City budget

by Jessica Vargas on November 15, 2018

An analysis of Mayor Hancock’s 2019 Budget – and the need for a new funding source

If the City’s annual budget is a measure of Denver’s commitment to creating more people-friendly streets, we’ve come a long way in the past four years. Nonetheless, Denver still has a significant funding gap to grapple with if we want to actually build out complete sidewalk, bicycle, and transit networks in a timely manner.  

The estimated cost to build out just the sidewalk network exceeds $1 billion, and at current funding levels it would take literally hundreds of years to do so.  Implementing the City’s new Denver Moves Transit Plan (including rapid transit improvements on Federal Boulevard and other major corridors that are part of the High Injury Network) will likely cost at least this much, if not significantly more.  While the Mayor and City Council have made a sincere effort to increase allocations for walking, biking, and transit within current transportation funding sources, it’s become increasingly clear that Denver needs to identify a new revenue source to truly provide safe, healthy, and affordable transportation options for all Denver residents.

WalkDenver has been advocating for the City to fund people-friendly streets in the annual budget since 2014. That year we declared a “win” when Mayor Hancock responded to the community’s request and included $350,000 for developing the Denver Moves Pedestrians and Trails Plan in the 2015 Budget. Fast forward to today, and not only is the plan now complete, we can celebrate a commitment of $3 million for new sidewalks in the Mayor’s 2019 Budget that City Council approved earlier this week.

This nearly ten-fold increase in funding dedicated to planning and building out the City’s sidewalk network is just one of several items to cheer about in the 2019 Budget.  Funding for building out the City’s bicycle network leapt to $7.1 million – more than triple the 2018 budget allocation of just $2.2 million. Funding for projects that support the City’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by the year 2030 increased as well, from $2.7 million in 2018 to $4.3 million in 2019.

Mayor Hancock and City Council also listened to the hundreds of community members who wrote postcards, sent e-mails, and testified in support of funding urgently needed safety improvements on Denver’s most deadly street, Federal Boulevard. Specifically, the 2019 Budget includes $500 thousand for redesigning the highway-style cloverleaf interchange of Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue to better accommodate people walking, biking, and accessing transit, and $750 thousand for a transit “alternatives analysis” – the first step toward implementing bus rapid transit or similar improvements that would transform Federal into a truly multi-modal corridor that is safer for people using all modes of travel (akin to the improvements planned for East Colfax).

One of the smaller items in the 2019 Budget is also the most exciting: $500 thousand for developing “Complete Streets Design Guidelines” that will help ensure pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders are at the forefront of all decisions about how to design, build, and manage Denver’s streets.

While we applaud these wins in the 2019 budget, WalkDenver and our fellow members of the Denver Streets Partnership also look forward to helping lead the discussion about potential new transportation funding options over the coming year. Click here for more details on funding commitments in the 2019 Budget for walking, biking, transit, and Vision Zero.

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