Where Democratic Candidates for Governor of Colorado Stand on Transportation
If Denver’s going to give its residents the freedom to live life without being tethered to a car, it will take bold policies from electeds at the municipal level.
But the Colorado Department of Transportation — and its boss, the governor — affects the city too. Just look at the state-sponsored ramming of a wider I-70 through north Denver neighborhoods and the unparalleled danger of state highways that double as urban, people-filled streets.
Whoever takes over for Governor John Hickenlooper after the November election will make budgetary decisions and guide policy that will affect how Denverites and visitors move around. The Democratic candidates will face off in a primary June 26. Here’s where they stand on transportation.
You’d be forgiven if you think Kennedy’s platform sounds like that of a major-city transportation chief. Long-term, the Denverite says, “trying to ‘widen’ our way out of traffic is expensive and inefficient.” She adds, “To meet the demands of growth, address traffic, and reduce our impact on the environment, we need a transportation system focused on moving people, not cars.”
Specifically Kennedy says she would increase bus rapid transit statewide, expand Bustang (CDOT’s regional bus service), and “improve and expand infrastructure for biking and walking.” She also supports high-speed rail, still in its early stages of development, along the Front Range. As governor she would focus on fixing existing roads and bridges, according to her platform, which puts maintenance above expansion.
Kennedy, formerly Mayor Michael Hancock’s deputy mayor, helped develop Peña Station, which her website calls “transit oriented development.” One day, maybe. Right now it’s a giant parking lot and a Panasonic office with more parking lots to come. Also — she likes the idea of vacuuming people through tubes to their destinations.
The whale of Polis’s transportation platform is high-speed rail along the Front Range between Fort Collins and Pueblo via Denver. He says he would allocate more startup funding for the project, “aggressively pursue” federal dollars, and seek out private-public partnerships to build the route.
It’s obvious that Polis, a congressman from Boulder, has thought about urban transportation policy and its relationship to affordable living. He says he’d develop “statewide design guidance” that prioritizes pedestrian-friendly streets, mixed-use zoning, and more density — not parking requirements.
All that being said, Polis is gung-ho about widening I-25 north of Denver. He also buys CDOT’s supposed $9 billion shortfall — which presupposes the need for a slew of road expansion projects — hook, line, and sinker. Like Kennedy, Polis gives a nod to the Hyperloop scheme in his platform.
Johnston’s transportation platform is one of broad strokes, with no mention of biking or walking. He does promise to “expand public transportation options in every community,” but doesn’t say how. The closest he comes is promising to “go to the ballot” to fund “CDOT’s backlog.” That’s a list comprised mostly of road expansions and maintenance projects with some transit stuff mixed in.
The former state senator and current Denverite says he’ll “support the development of innovative transit solutions.” He gives two vague examples: “high-speed transit” and “autonomous and connected vehicles.”
Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne’s transportation platform doesn’t mention transit, biking, or walking — just that “we have real work to do” as evidenced by traffic on Colorado’s two interstates and “many other roadways.”
Lynne told Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner that she would encourage Coloradans “to live close to where there’s transit right now” in order to reduce congestion. “Many, many cities use transit a lot more than we do here in Colorado,” she said, but did not specify how she would change that.
Lynne, a Denver resident, supports a ballot measure to raise taxes for transportation, she told Warner. The question is what the money would fund.