2020 Budget: Scramble for Street Safety Funding Highlights Need for New Revenue

Mayor Michael Hancock introduces his 2020 budget proposal at a press conference Sept. 9. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Mayor Michael Hancock introduces his 2020 budget proposal at a press conference Sept. 9. Photo: Andy Bosselman

Next year’s $1.49 billion city budget took a step toward being finalized today when Mayor Hancock recommended changes to his original proposal, including three line items that will add $2.7 million to improve street safety and sidewalks. But the last-minute budget scrounging highlights the need for city officials to find new sources of transportation funding, advocates said.

When Hancock introduced his initial 2020 budget proposal last month, the Denver Streets Partnership denounced the plan for its paltry funding for sidewalks and street safety. 

The organization requested $6 million to fund projects related to the city’s Vision Zero pledge to end all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. Just $4.95 million was originally allocated. The organization then lobbied City Council and the mayor responded today with Vision Zero funding that totals $6.18 million

“It’s definitely a good thing,” said Jill Locantore of WalkDenver, a member of the Partnership. “It now adds up to our Vision Zero request.” 

Added to next year’s budget: 

  • $500,000 for the Safe Routes to Schools program, which brings the program’s total funding to $1.35 million
  •  $730,000 for Vision Zero improvements “in high injury areas with high historical infrastructure inequities.” 

The updated budget will also add $1.5 million for five miles of sidewalks that will fill “gaps in high need areas.” But the funding will come from the Elevate Denver Bond, not from the city’s general fund. 

Locantore says that without more money earmarked for sidewalks in the general fund, it could take hundreds of years to finish building adequate sidewalks across the city. 

“The bond was a nice jumpstart to building out bike, pedestrian and transit networks,” she said. “But it’s just one piece of the total pie that we need. We need an additional new revenue source.” 

The same is true of Vision Zero spending. Like sidewalks, neither benefit from permanent funding sources, and Locantore says that needs to change. 

“We have to go through this every year. We scrounge around in the couch cushions to get it at an acceptable level,” she said. “It just highlights we need new, sustainable revenue rather than going through this scramble every year.” 

Once the city’s budget is updated with today’s changes, the City Council will hold a budget hearing. A vote will follow. 

We can’t do this work without your help. Give $5 per month.