19 Feb Ofer Eitan Says: Boulder County OKs $2 billion transportation master plan –
With the number of vehicles entering Boulder County each day expected to increase to 589,100 by 2040, the Boulder County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a new transportation master plan that largely focuses on increasing opportunities for multimodal transportation.
“I don’t know that there is any particular subject that we deal with that so universally affects everyone as transportation,” County Commission Chair Deb Gardner said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Obviously, the big thing is the challenge around funding.”
With 61 projects identified in the new plan, ranging from construction of the FasTracks northwest corridor commuter rail and expanding regional bus service, to redesigning intersections with an eye toward increased safety and building connector trails to promote biking, the Boulder County Transportation Department estimated it would cost roughly $2 billion to construct all of the projects.
“We don’t expect to fund it overnight,” Kathleen Bracke, the deputy director of transportation planning for Boulder County, said, “but we do need to look at how we can start to accelerate progress on regional corridors.”
According to the master plan, by 2040, regional trips into Boulder County are expected to increase 61% over 2015 traffic counts, with the greatest increase coming from Weld County. There were 69,000 daily trips from Weld County in 2015, or 19% of the total trips. By 2040, that number is expected to be 143,000, or 24% of the total.
While Boulder County is well versed in obtaining state and federal transportation grants, such as the $30 million grant that the Colorado Department of Transportation recently awarded Boulder to extend regional bus service east along Colo. 119 to an Interstate 25 Park-n-Ride, the commissioners noted that they will have to use every funding avenue available to them to make this plan a reality, including the possibility of enacting some sort of tax.
“We have started a conversation with our municipalities and key stakeholders about whether or not we should be raising funds at the county level to address the affordability challenge that we have with transportation and housing,” said Commissioner Elise Jones, who also serves as the Boulder representative on the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition. “Nothing has been decided, but the conversation is positive, there’s a whole lot of engagement and enthusiasm about that exploration, and that points to an opportunity to address the funding shortfall.”
With a county-level source of funding, Commissioners Matt Jones and Elise Jones both noted that it would easier to obtain matching state or federal funds, even as the state continues to search for transportation funding of its own.
“The key is leveraging multiple sources of funding,” Elise Jones said. “We’ve been a team player working with the state and our voters voted to approve Proposition CC and Proposition 110, but we can’t wait on the state forever.”
In the meantime, however, there is still money available for high priority projects.
Along with the $30 million the Colorado Department of Transportation provided for expanding bus service along Colo. 119, RTD committed $200,000 toward a local match for Boulder’s Downtown Station improvements and approximately $17 million for the Downtown Longmont multimodal station at First Avenue and Main Street.
With several municipalities in Boulder County also updating their transportation master plans, there will also be plenty of opportunities for partnerships.
“It’s really timely that we are updating our transportation master plan at the same time as a number of our municipalities are,” Commissioner Elise Jones said. “It really helps with regional collaboration. To get any of this implemented and workable it needs to be integrated, so it’s a pretty exciting time to match up those visions.”