We, here in the hinterlands are often the last to hear about CDOT transportation funding priorities. Thus we were a bit surprised to hear from the Colorado Daily that there is a proposal in the works to spend $2 billion dollars to add two more lanes to US 36 from Denver to the Foothills Parkway in Boulder.
Thats a "B" in that billion, or two billion. We are talking some real money, especially when we consider that Referendum C was sold to the public as producing only an additional $3 billion over five years.
Under normal circumstances, this blog would be all for widening highways. Earlier this summer, we sat in what was essentially bumper to bumper traffic in the middle of the day on I-25 between Fort Collins and Denver. That needs to be widened.
Likewise, the traffic between Academy and Monument Hill north of Colorado Springs is bumper to bumper much of the day. It needs to be widened.
We haven't been on I-70 between Denver and the Ski Resorts recently, but we hear that it is a mess, at least in Ski Season.
All of those priorities and others need to be met before a dime is spent on US 36.
Boulder has created its own problems. It has height restrictions on buildings. It has a large green belt buffer around the city. It has no moderately priced housing. Much of the traffic on US 36 is generated by students and employees who can't live close in to Boulder, either because they can't afford it or because housing doesn't exist and never will exist.
Yes, the people in Boulder have an enviable lifestyle, but that lifestyle has a high cost in pollution and traffic as those who can't live there but who must be there daily congest US 36. We see no reason that people from other parts of the state should be required to subsidize that lifestyle.
Before one dime of Colorado taxpayer money is spent to widen US 36 ahead of other needs, the legislature needs to extract concessions from Boulder that will cut corridor traffic by allowing people to affordably live closer to their jobs and classes.
This is a concession that should come easily to the people of Boulder, given their enthusiasm for the environment. Their current policies are causing bumper to bumper traffic on the arteries leading into their city and thus dumping tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere daily. By giving others a chance to live in their wonderful little utopia, they can cut those gases significantly.
We see that Mark Udall managed to insert his name into the CDOT press release:
U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs and a candidate in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, said he is confident that local, state and federal entities will join forces to successfully fund projects to relieve U.S. 36 congestion.
“This is one of many steps we will take to make life a little easier on Colorado drivers who have to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day on this corridor,” said Udall in the CDOT press release.
Mark Udall is doing his job as a Congressman from Boulder. We wonder what his priorities would be if he were a US Senator. Would he continue to cater to the crowd of NIMBY environmentalists in Boulder, or would he try to solve the problems in the other parts of the state ahead of Boulder's problem of its own making? Doing the latter might be good for Boulder and would be good for the environment.
Given that he is taking so much money from the greens, we would bet that he would favor the Boulder NIMBY's over the needs of any other area of the state. We would bet that he wouldn't require a change in Boulder policies as a price of widening US 36. Someone should ask him.