Denver Streets Partnership to Denverites: Convince Electeds to Restore Ped-Bike Funding

Photo: WalkDenver
Photo: WalkDenver

Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council have a chance to back up all their talk about safe streets and elevating transportation options other than cars.

A good start, advocates say, is to restore funding to the build-out of Denver’s inadequate walking and biking networks — which an influential executive committee slashed in its final recommendations to Hancock on Monday [PDF]. The project list, in some form, will eventually go before voters in November.

“Every so often that moment comes along,” said Bicycle Colorado Denver Director Piep van Heuven, who represents the Denver Streets Partnership. “You have that moment to make real change, and this is it for Denver. The mayor has been talking for months about mobility, and we’re about to find out whether he’s in at 100 percent.”

A subcommittee of transportation professionals, the disabled community, public schools, affordable housing, and other neighborhood leaders had recommended $30 million to fund the city’s perennially under-funded plan for a seamless biking grid, which the executive committee dropped to $18 million. That sum won’t even get Denver Public Works through phase two of the plan.

The executive committee dropped the original $41.9 million for sidewalk construction — which would still make only a small dent in Denver’s patchwork network — to $29.7 million.

The Denver Streets Partnership wants the public to make waves so that Hancock restores that money. Here’s how WalkDenver framed the ask in an appeal to its members:

The [General Obligation] Bond, which the City will ask voters to approve this fall, is an important opportunity to jump start the construction of sidewalks and bike lanes citywide, but City leaders need to hear from people like you how important walking and biking are for your daily transportation needs.

Our fellow member of the Denver Streets Partnership, Bicycle Colorado, has a created a simple form you can fill out to send a customized message to the Mayor and your City Council representatives.

There’s plenty of money in the couch cushions. Right now the bond package recommendations total $749.2 million, but that doesn’t count $50 million that the executive committee left for Hancock and the City Council to earmark however they please. And the city’s biking and walking networks don’t represent pet projects — they represent citywide infrastructure.

Besides the slush fund at their disposal, electeds could make up the funding by cutting auto-centric projects, like the planned widening of 56th Avenue, or kicking the can down the road on long-neglected road and gutter maintenance. Those line items total $128 million.

“That’s a big number,” BikeDenver Executive Director James Waddell said, referring to road maintenance costs. “The question should become, why are we having such a big line item every 10 years, instead of chipping away at it with $10 million a year in the budget?” Waddell would like to see a breakdown of the vague “deferred maintenance” line item. Hopefully, maintaining bike infrastructure is baked into that — or can be, he said.

As John Riecke lays out in a recent post on DenverUrbanism:

While spending money on maintenance is important, spending bond money on maintenance means we’re paying interest on every dollar we spend. Bond interest, though low, is still interest, and a dollar borrowed today will cost us two dollars by the time it’s paid off in 2028.

“Our message is that transportation is for everyone, and these networks are critical so that people — all people — can get around Denver safely,” van Heuven said. “We know there are a lot of people that want to walk and bike and take transit who can’t do it right now because the safe networks don’t exist. We have a system that functions well for cars, and not well for most other things.”

Head to Bicycle Colorado’s website to send a message to Hancock and City Council members.

  • Camera_Shy

    Wouldn’t it be great if we had “electeds” who already believed in Ped-Bike Funding?!?!

  • TakeFive

    like the planned widening of 56th Avenue

    LOL, if you were looking for low hanging fruit I think you just came up snake eyes. IIRC 56th Ave has been atop the Elevate 2020 priority list for years. I assume it’s a growing-in-importance arterial for both residential and commercial traffic for NE Denver.

    Interestingly 56th Ave will be a key east-west corridor for one of the Mayors biggest wins, one I’m sure he’s very proud of. The DBJ carried the story back in Dec of 2014. http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/boosters_bits/2014/12/exclusivedenver-lands-panasonic-offshoot-location.html

    Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co. chose Denver over 22 other U.S. cities as the place to make its main U.S. innovation and sales hub.

    It will be modeled after their Smart City in Fujisawa, Japan. It will be as green as green can get. For the unitiated Panasonic’s CityNOW has it’s own web site: http://panasoniccitynow.com/ Additionally a 61st and Pena Statin Area Plan was created in 2014 pdf: https://www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/646/documents/planning/Plans/61st_and_Pena_station_area_plan.pdf

    Picking on a critical piece of the Mayor’s biggest win other than the new National Western Center makes it sound like you are not even aware of what’s going on with the City of Denver?

    • David Sachs

      Well aware of those projects.

      You should explain how a “smart city” of the future, supposedly oriented around transit, anchored by a company intent on the proliferation of automated/connected vehicles, requires widening a 3-mile stretch of road by two lanes.

      This stretch of road runs parallel to I-70, which is only 1.5 miles away, and slated for massive widening itself — an additional 2 to 4 lanes on this segment — at a cost of $1-2 billion (not counting overruns and maintenance down the line).

      This is stretch of 56th that is adjacent, on one side, to low-density single-family homes. On the other? A wildlife refuge.

      This is a stretch of road — just 3 miles —that will cost $27 million (not counting overruns and maintenance down the line). That’s just the first phase, by the way. This widening sets the table for a 6-lane road, according to the project description.

      This is a project out of the 1950s, based on the assumption that everyone will own and drive their own cars, which we know is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s not “green as can get.”

      As for the logic that a project is good because the idea has been around for 13 years, as this one has? (See East 56th Ave Corridor Concept Plan, 2004.) And because the mayor is proud of it? Can’t help you there.

      • TakeFive

        Eh, didn’t man to suggest that E 56th Ave was a part of Smart CityNOW. Totally separate projects. I doubt they have enough money to do much if any “green” improvements.

        The notion that you’d hope to convince the Mayor to include more of what you want by cutting a project that he (and others) think is very important seems like an odd strategy to me. But hey, if it proves to be a winner I’ll happily offer my congratulations.

      • TakeFive

        The Central 70 project, not a part of the bond issue, is an interesting topic. It’s been two long, sweaty years since CDOT selected four very impressive teams as P3 finalists. Yet more unfortunate delay. It’s a lead pipe cinch that delay after delay after delay has increased the ultimate cost of the project. Especially over the last 3/4 years construction costs have risen between about 3.5-4.5 percent per year – compounded. If they could have built the dang thing in a more timely manner like five years ago there’s no question that it would have cost much less.

        I believe we will learn who the winning P3 team is by the end of summer. While each P3 project is unique and very complex, my understanding is that the winning team will sign a guaranteed cost contract which means they will bear the burden of any cost overruns.

        With respect to maintenance in general some would argue that if you can’t maintain what you already have then you shouldn’t build any shiny new stuff. While I have much sympathy for the argument I also have confidence that the City of Denver can handle a good measure of both.

    • Roads_Wide_Open

      widening is needed, as this provides secondary access to DIA/Pena. It has nothing to do with the wildlife refuge or houses nearby. Sorry folks, funding still needs to be spend on infrastructure that 95% of everyone uses, in addition to the “bus system” the city uses (hopefully no one forgot that it’s roads that buses travel on).

      Let’s not even get started on this autonomous/connected crap…

      • TakeFive

        Exactly; so long as buses continue to use round rubber wheels good roads will be important and bad roads will drive up maintenance costs for RTD. In fact poorly maintained roads will discourage many from riding the bus.

  • SveDenver

    The money spent so far on bike lanes has been an absolute waste. The new bike lanes further choke traffic and are for the most part unused.

    We have many more important things to focus on in this city rather than spending millions on bike lanes that are used by a handful of bikers between May and October.

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