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A shift in highway planning: no more capacity

A shift in highway planning: no more capacity
A shift in highway planning: no more capacity 02:40

"I travel in for work and it's definitely slow," said David Powell about his commute on I-25 through Denver. 

The highway from Santa Fe to Speer has been a subject of study for years as the Colorado Department of Transportation tries to figure out how to relieve congestion and improve safety in the area. 

"The traffic is pretty bad," said commuter Carlos Torres.


But long-range planning for the segment of the highway no longer involves plans for more lanes, Colorado Department of Transportation staffers told the Transportation Commission's workshop Wednesday. 

"We're no longer proposing to widen I-25," said Jessica Myklebust, Region 1 transportation director.

"This is a significant change in the way that CDOT is approaching our transportation system," said the non-profit Colorado Public Interest Group or CoPirg executive director Danny Katz.  "What we've seen time and again is we spend billions of dollars, years of construction and within a year or two of opening that new lane it's full or cars again. And those cars bring pollution. And those cars aren't just on our highways, they come onto our local streets and they cause traffic congestion on our local streets as well."

Instead, there will likely be a move toward more options for commuters close in to the city. More frequent buses and light rail perhaps, more protected bike lanes and Katz hopes for more housing near businesses to shorten commutes.

"All of those things add up and they add up in a way that we can avoid spending $1 billion to add a new lane that won't really solve our problems," said Katz.


Another aspect of the planning is the reality of air quality requirements. 

"There's been a lot of work going on with DRCOG on how we're going to meet our staff and air quality emissions. One thing that's come to the forefront is that by 2030 we have some pretty aggressive deadlines to meet," said Myklebust during the meeting. 

The Denver Regional Council of Governments or DRCOG is currently fielding public comments on its "2050 Metro Vision Regional Transportation Plan." That is a plan to help meet new greenhouse gas emissions levels set by the state. It guides the metro area's transportation priorities. Right now DRCOG is seeking comment and will wrap it up in September to be shared with CDOT.  

Katz believes more and better options will help, "We need people to have those options and it's hard to recruit people if an option either doesn't exist or is so inconvenient or unaffordable or unsafe to use that the average person would not really consider that an option."

And commuter David Powell thought maybe there might be a chance for him if the options were better. 


"I'm used to driving… If need be, I would take public transportation bus bike, or anything, the scooters that are around... I love those as well."

DRCOG's Metro Vision Regional Transportation Plan:

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