Mayor Continues Transportation & Climate Investments in Tightened 2020 Budget

Mayor Michael Hancock introduces his 2020 budget proposal at a press conference Monday. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Mayor Michael Hancock introduces his 2020 budget proposal at a press conference Monday. Photo: Andy Bosselman

Denver will continue investing in its goals around transportation and the climate crisis under the mayor’s 2020 budget proposal, which he revealed this morning at a press conference. But the $1.49 billion operating budget, which is a 2 percent increase over this year’s spending, also braces the city for an economic slowdown. 

“We are taking assertive steps now to begin the belt tightening,” said Mayor Michael Hancock. “Because we are indeed seeing our revenues moderate and soften.” 

Brendan Hanlon discusses the mayor's 2020 budget proposal. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Brendan Hanlon discusses the mayor’s 2020 budget proposal. Photo: Andy Bosselman

Fast growth injected new money into the city’s budget in recent years, according to Brendan Hanlon, the city’s Chief Financial Officer. And tax revenue is continuing to grow, especially from the retail and tourism industries, he says. But sales have slowed for cars, marijunana and products used in manufacturing and construction. 

In response to the slowing flow of cash into the city’s coffers, the mayor asked each department to make cuts without reducing services. The departments responded by making administrative changes or avoiding some new hiring. But the slower budget growth does not mean the city is cutting back on investments already planned, said the mayor.

“This budget proposal advances the people’s priorities,” he said, citing a range of city goals, including those around the climate crisis and improving mobility options.

Transportation & Mobility

$118 million was proposed for building out Denver’s multimodal transportation system. That will grow by another $48 million when the Elevate Denver Bond issues another round of funds later this year. Kiki Turner, a spokesperson in the city’s Department of Finance, says the money would fund a range of projects, including:

$11.4 million for bike lanes 

  • Bikeways will be built, working toward the city’s goal of adding 125 miles in five years 

$6.8 million for pedestrian crossings and sidewalks 

  • Pedestrian crossings will be improved citywide
  • Five miles of sidewalk gaps will be filled in, especially on public property near high frequency transit stations and along high-injury network streets

 $4 million for pedestrian and bike safety improvements 

  • $1.5 million for pedestrian detection technology at ten intersections on Federal Boulevard, which will improve traffic signal timing when it detects people on foot
  • $1.2 million for Vision Zero capital improvements
  • $950,000 for Safe Routes to School infrastructure and education 
  • $250,000 for a Safety Mobility Campaign
  • Hiring two Vision Zero staff

$3 million for 18th & 19th Streets Downtown

  • High-comfort bike lanes will be built on 18th from Glenarm to Wynkoop and on 19th from Wynkoop to Stout
  • Transit improvements will speed up bus travel times and increase reliability on the Free MetroRide
  • Pedestrian safety improvements will include crossing treatments and signal upgrades

Streetsblog asked city officials about funding related to Colfax Bus Rapid Transit and the Broadway/Lincoln Multimodal Design upgrades. We did not receive a response in time for this story. 

Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency

The mayor proposed $40 million to create a new climate office that will address the crisis with measures including:

  • $2 million to expand composting and recycling
  • $2.9 million to purchase electric vehicles and improve charging infrastructure
  • $1.3 million to offer green building incentives

General Operating Fund vs. Total Operating Budget

The mayor’s budget proposal grows to $2.2 billion when all proposed city expenditures are included. 

  • $1.49 billion: General Operating Fund, up 2 percent (this funds the city’s operations)
  • $2.2 billion: Total Operating Budget, up 1.7 percent (this includes the airport and construction projects) 

The city council will consider the mayor’s budget in hearings taking place all of next week. Deliberations will follow until the budget is passed during the second week of November. The 613-page budget proposal can be downloaded from the city’s website


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  • Yolo

    Finally a full bike lane connection from Uptown/Capitol Hill to Union Station!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • TakeFive

    Please don’t tell me that light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train?
    Nah, too early to say but clearly Denver has been enjoying the Kool-Aid from all the booming development. It’s a good time to at least lighten-up on the party tray.

    The big bugaboo is with the economic recovery the city developed a case of hire-itus. It seems that every time a new special-interest group came along the city added a new department as a salve. Ofc, I’ve always supported the hiring of police officers and firefighters but IIRC the recurring, growing costs for turning the lights on every day has gone up ~60%. That means that lessening revenue growth quickly cuts into discretionary spending flexibility.

  • iBikeCommute

    I am not a fan of these piecemeal vision zero projects being done one intersection at a time. DPW needs to integrate ped and bike safety in everything they do, including routine maintenance. IE, they just resurfaced downing and corona through cap hill and are currently tearing up sections of 13/14th ave without any significant safety improvements. Not to mention repaving half of downtown last summer without adding a single new bike lane. A few million dollars for a trophy bike project is pretty meaningless without greater reform in how the city manages construction projects.

    • TakeFive

      Eh, needed routine maintenance is really a separate thingy from mobility improvements.

      I believe the city is still in the midst of some intense analytics and modeling for how best to incorporate all modes from freight delivery to bike lanes, bus lanes etc. It gets complicated fast and what you do on one street reverberates throughout downtown.

      Minneapolis just installed BAT lanes that become dedicated bus lanes between 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays. During the day they could be used for freight delivery or TNC’s for example.

      https://stmedia.stimg.co/ows_156778579486681.jpg?auto=compress&crop=faces&dpr=0.8999999761581421&w=525

      • iBikeCommute

        Wouldn’t it make sense to add pedestrian bulb outs at the same time that the curb is being rebuilt for drainage work? That is, if the city is the city is truly invested in vision zero rather than just cheap talking points?

        • TakeFive

          I’m fairly clueless when it comes to bulb-outs. Do you want those where there will be bike lanes? bus lanes?

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