State transportation commissioners approved a new 10-year plan on Thursday and it's a big shift toward more bus lanes instead of car lanes.
The plan includes $1.7 billion in new projects, but only two major highway widening projects: I-70 at Floyd Hill and I-25 north from Longmont to Fort Collins. For now, express lanes on I-270 are not included and a planned widening of I-25 through downtown Denver is scrapped. Instead, CDOT will add bus-only lanes on Colfax, Colorado Boulevard and Federal.
Danny Katz with the consumer advocacy group CoPIRG fought the I-25 widening project and applauded the shift in priorities, "We've gotten to a point where we can't widen it anymore. It takes billions of dollars and the congestion comes back within years of completing these massive highway widening projects."
But Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl says not everyone can or wants to take a bus. The best way to ease emissions she says is to ease congestion. Ganahl held a press conference outside CDOT as commissioners approved the new plan inside. It comes less than five weeks before the November election and could factor into the governor's race.
The transportation commission is appointed by Gov. Jared Polis and Ganahl wasted no time condemning the plan and laying out her own plan. It includes additional express lanes for I-25, I-70 and I-270, a by-pass for I-25 through Colorado Springs, and a billion dollars for rural road improvements, "My plan is a 10-year, $10 billion investment in highways, tunnels, bridges and safety."
The plan also includes money for electric vehicle charging stations and bus rapid transit. Half of the money, Ganahl says, will come from the general fund and private sector. The rest will come from fees in the transportation bill passed by the legislature last year. She says she'll push for a citizens' initiative to allow voters to decide whether to approve the fees in the transportation bill as taxes.
"I'm taking this plan to the voters to get approval and we will call them taxes as they are. The people of Colorado want the roads fixed but they want to be partners in the process, they don't want to be left out of the conversation," said Ganahl.
She didn't say how she'd fund her plan if they don't vote for the ballot measure.
Katz says people want options beyond adding more car lanes, "I think we're at the point right now where we need to be focusing our dollars and maintaining the system we have, making sure it's safe and then giving people options because if we don't have options we all climb into our cars and we're all stuck in the same traffic."
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