Colorado governor calls for tax ballot measure to address transportation

By Brian Eason and John Frank, The Denver Post
January 12, 2017

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday called for lawmakers to put a measure on the November ballot that asks voters for a tax hike to improve roads and expand transit, setting the bar for one of the top debates this session.

“We’ve had this debate for too long,” the Democrat said in his annual State of State address. “If talk could fill potholes, we’d have the best roads in the country.”

The governor’s 38-minute address also featured a forceful rebuttal to Republican efforts in the nation’s capital and Colorado to dismantle the federal health-care law and Medicaid expansion, pledging he would “fight for a replacement plan that protects the people who are covered now and doesn’t take us backward.”

In a political twist, he pushed for states to retain more control on the issue: “I think most of us would agree that the last thing we want is Congress making all of our decisions around health care,” he said.

The defense of the Affordable Care Act drew hoots and hollers from Democratic lawmakers and icy stares from Republicans in one of the more divisive moments in a speech Hickenlooper had billed as unifying.

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Prioritizing 2017 as the Year for Transportation

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Governor Hickenlooper delivers keynote address at 8th Legislative Breakfast

As Governor Hickenlooper stated at the 8th Legislative Breakfast, transportation is an economic driver. It determines the movement of our state’s goods and the movement of people to tourist destinations and employment centers.

Funding for this vital aspect of our state’s economy is at an all-time low and is a key focus for elected officials entering the 2017 legislative session. And it is not just elected officials who are focused on transportation funding, the private sector is raising their collective voice in support of developing new mechanisms for transportation funding. Accessibility (meaning an effective multi-modal system and roads that are well maintained) ensures that new businesses invest in Colorado and that our workforce remains strong.

Colorado is a growing state, but maintains a healthy competition against our neighbor to the west—Utah. Compared to Colorado, Utah has half of the population, more than 700 miles of lanes and similar outdoor offerings. Without an effective transportation system that is well maintained, Colorado could face losing revenue as young entrepreneurs look to Utah (currently Colorado has a $9 billion transportation funding deficit). Both elected officials and private-sector leaders understand that to keep Colorado competitive transportation needs to come first—the question is, where does the money come from?

Building a sustainable, reliable multi-modal system is a priority for our state’s elected officials and so is developing a stable funding mechanism. At the 8th Legislative Breakfast, Senator John Cooke presented two possibilities for increasing transportation funding: an increased gas tax or a sales tax. To ensure that sales tax is applied to transportation, safeguards would need to be in place and the public would need to be involved in the conversation. As Representative Diane Mitsch Bush noted, the public needs to understand issues as well as the legislators working on them. For transportation funding to go into effect, the public needs to understand the significance of transportation and the investment that their tax dollars make.

Learn more about the policies Commuting Solutions and the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition support, and stay in touch with Commuting Solutions as we prioritize 2017 as the year for transportation!

Commuting Solutions is a shining example of multi-modal success, showing clearly how we can reduce congestion , improve economic opportunity for all, protect and improve our environment, and help make our communities more resilient.  – Representative Diane Mitsch Bush

Carpoolers Need Three to Ride for Free on CDOT’S HOV Express Lanes

Jan. 3, 2017

Carpoolers Need Three to Ride for Free on CDOT’S HOV Express Lanes
I-25 and US 36 Express Lanes are now HOV 3 +  

DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) today remind carpoolers that CDOT’s High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Express Lanes is now HOV 3+. The change began Jan. 1, 2017 and HOV 3+ equals a driver and at least two passengers.

The change affects the US 36 and I-25 Express Lanes, two corridors that offer free carpooling in the Express Lanes. The move to HOV 3+ is needed to provide uncongested travel now and in the future on the Express Lanes as well as to provide funding to help offset costs of the lane including operations and maintenance.

CDOT and HPTE are working with the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), the Regional Transportation District (RTD), Smart Commute Metro North, Commuting Solutions, North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization (NFRMPO), Lyft, Uber and others to help people find and use additional ways to carpool or take other modes of transportation. To explore different options, visit the HOV 3+ solutions website here. Drivers also always have the option of driving in the free general purpose lanes.

Carpool purists, drivers who use their Switchable HOV Transponder in carpool mode only, will be able to receive the $15 transponder for free in spring 2017 as another way to ease the transition. Drivers can get a Switchable HOV Transponder at ExpressToll.com.

Learn more at expresslanes.codot.gov.

About Express Lanes: Express Lanes increase roadway capacity and help to manage congestion on the highways. The use of toll pricing during peak travel times reduces delays, manages congestion and maintains reliable travel times. Express Lanes are currently open on I-25 between downtown Denver and 120th Avenue, US 36 between Denver and Boulder, and on I-70 between Idaho Springs and Empire.

About CDOT: www.codot.gov

About the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE): The HPTE operates as a government-owned, independent business within CDOT. It searches out innovative ways to finance projects to help Colorado fulfill its commitment to increase travel choices through options that include Express Lanes, transit, biking, walking and carpooling. For more information, visit www.coloradohpte.com.

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8th Legislative Breakfast will focus on transportation issues

Dec. 19, 2016
Staff report, Northglenn Thornton Sentinel

Commuting Solutions and the Northwest Chamber Alliance (a coalition of the Broomfield, Boulder and Longmont chambers) will host the 8th Legislative Breakfast on Jan. 5 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Omni Interlocken Hotel. The purpose of this year’s event is to convene public and private stakeholders around the Northwest region’s transportation priorities during the 2017 legislative session.

The 8th Legislative Breakfast will provide a collaborative environment for businesses, governments and transportation agencies to discuss the future of the Northwest region, especially as it relates to potential state legislation to prioritize transportation.

“Transportation is becoming a paramount issue for businesses, especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees,” said John Tayer, President and CEO of the Boulder chamber. “Businesses that are highly accessible become desirable employment hubs and ultimately increase a region’s population, economy and quality of life.”

Economic development also is a focal point of this year’s breakfast.

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Mike Foote: U.S. 36 and corporate veto power

Representative Mike Foote, The Daily Camera
Dec. 29, 2016

Corporate influence over our government is widespread and nowhere more apparent than on our highway to Denver.

Much has already been written about the coming Jan. 1 change on the U.S. 36 managed lanes from HOV 2 to HOV 3. I do not agree with the change, nor do many of Boulder County’s elected officials. But here’s the problem: it doesn’t matter what we think and it doesn’t matter what you think. That’s because the impending change was included in the contract signed four years ago after closed-door negotiations between state officials and the Plenary Group, the company that built the managed lanes and now collects the tolls charged to those who drive on them without a passenger or (soon) two.

In its public statements and telephone town hall meetings, the Colorado Department of Transportation and its High Performance Transportation Enterprise maintain that the HOV 3 switch is designed to keep the managed lane from getting too crowded. That’s true, but only half of the story. The 2013 contract called for a switch to HOV 3 in January 2017 regardless of how crowded the lane was at the time. Any modification of that predetermined date would be a breach of contract and subject the state to massive penalties. In other words, we must switch to HOV 3 in 2017 even if the managed lane were as empty as a gym on New Year’s Eve.

The Plenary Group was not elected or appointed, of course, but it has more power over a public highway than any citizen, legislator, or even the governor.

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Louisville’s Commuting Solutions appoints 2017-18 board members

Dec. 29, 2016
By Anthony Hahn, The Daily Camera

At Louisville-based Commuting Solutions’ annual meeting on Dec. 13, members of the transportation-focused group approved the recommended board members for 2017-2018 service term.

Joining the Board of Directors are Gina McAfee, of HDR Engineering; Rob Zuccaro, of Louisville; Shawn Lewis, of Longmont; Heather Cracraft, of the Superior Chamber of Commerce; and Tushar Udeshi, of Google, according to a news release on Monday. The new board members’ terms will begin Sunday and end Dec. 31, 2018.

“We are fortunate to have such a diverse and knowledgeable Board of Directors guide our organization as we continue to address regional transportation issues,” Audrey DeBarros, executive director of Commuting Solutions, said in a statement.

During 2017, the Board of Directors will be led by the following board officers: Chairperson David Driscoll, of Driscoll Rose LLC; Vice Chairperson Kathleen Bracke, of the city of Boulder; Past Chairperson Debra Baskett, of the city of Westminster; Treasurer Ken Hotard, of Boulder Area Realtor Association; and Secretary Chris McShane, of Colorado Business Bank.

Northwest Chambers Plan Legislative Forum on Transportation

by Christopher Wood, BizWest
December 20, 2016

BROOMFIELD – Commuting Solutions and the Northwest Chamber Alliance, a coalition of the Broomfield, Boulder and Longmont chambers, will host the 8th Legislative Breakfast from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 5, at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield.

The event will convene public and private stakeholders around the Northwest region’s transportation priorities during the 2017 legislative session.

“The 8th Legislative Breakfast will provide a collaborative environment for businesses, governments and transportation agencies to discuss the future of the Northwest region, especially as it relates to potential state legislation to prioritize transportation,” John Tayer, president and chief executive of the Boulder Chamber, said in a press release. “Businesses have a growing voice in transportation planning, as effective transportation leads to increased economic growth.”

The forum will include legislators such as House Majority Leader KC Becker; Sen. John Cooke, Senate Transportation Committee vice chair; and Rep. Diane Mitsch-Bush, House Transportation & Energy Committee chair. They will discuss the priorities most important to their regions.

Additionally, the U.S. 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition and Commuting Solutions will present their 2017 legislative policy agenda.

Gov. John Hickenlooper will deliver a breakfast keynote address, with regional business leaders and elected officials also making presentations.

The cost to attend is $75 for members of Commuting Solutions, the Broomfield Chamber, the Boulder Chamber and the Longmont Chamber and $90 for non-members. Registration can be completed through Jan. 4 here.

Boulder County Sees Chilly Reception for Switch to HOV 3 on U.S. 36

By Alex Burness, The Daily Camera
December 17, 2016

Starting New Year’s Day, the express lanes of U.S. 36 will require cars to carry three passengers — up from the current two — to qualify as high-occupancy vehicles and enjoy the toll lane for free.

But the switch from HOV 2 to HOV 3, which also applies to express lanes on Interstate 25, is not a response to any particular problem on the highway.

It’s been almost 18 months since toll lanes opened as part of a nearly $500 million expansion project on U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver, and, by several key measures, the ride’s been a smooth one for all modes involved.

Across all lanes, speeds are up about 30 percent during morning rush hour and 20 percent during the evening rush.

RTD’s new Flatiron Flyer bus fleet is meeting its average required speeds: 55 mph from Boulder to Broomfield and 50 mph from Broomfield to Denver

And the HOV 2 threshold hasn’t resulted in any kind of imbalance that would threaten the purpose of the toll lane — a faster ride for buses, carpools and paying customers, and less congested main lanes. On U.S. 36 and I-25, the Colorado Department of Transportation reports, HOV cars make up about a quarter of all toll-lane vehicles.

In fact, the change from HOV 2 to HOV 3 is being made mainly in the name of revenue.

The state transportation department accomplished the U.S. 36 expansion through a first-of-its-kind (in Colorado, anyway) public-private partnership with the infrastructure investment company Plenary Group.

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CDOT and HPTE Host Telephone Town Hall on HOV 3+ Change for Carpoolers, Monday, Dec. 12

CDOT AND HPTE HOST TELEPHONE TOWN HALL ON HOV 3+ CHANGE FOR CARPOOLERS, MONDAY, DEC. 12
Telephone Town Hall to discuss HOV 3+ carpool, options for drivers

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) will host a  Dec. 12 Telephone Town Hall to discuss the upcoming change for carpoolers, HOV 2+ to HOV 3+, on US 36 and I-25 Express Lanes starting Jan. 1, 2017.  HOV 3+ means a driver needs at least two passengers, along with a Switchable HOV Transponder pass, to use the Express Lanes on I-25 and US 36 for free as a carpooler. The town hall speakers will include representatives from CDOT, HPTE, State Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, Commuting Solutions, and Smart Commute Metro North to discuss the change as well as options to help commuters.

Express Lanes, which are being built throughout the state, help relieve congestion and provide funding to offset transportation costs, including ongoing operations and maintenance. HOV 3+ ensures that Express Lanes remain free-flowing now and in the future, so that those who choose to ride the bus, pay a toll or carpool always have a reliable and faster trip. In addition, getting more people into carpools with HOV 3+ reduces overall congestion and can reduce vehicle emissions.

HOV 3 + Telephone Town Hall information:
Date and Time: 7 to 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12.
How to participate: Dial 1-877-229-8493 and enter the access code 112034. Learn more at www.codot.gov/programs/expresslanes

About Express Lanes: Express Lanes increase roadway capacity and help to manage congestion on the highways. The use of toll pricing during peak travel times reduces delays, manages congestion and maintains reliable travel times. Express Lanes are currently open on I-25 between downtown Denver and 120th Avenue, US 36 between Denver and Boulder, and on I-70 between Idaho Springs and Empire. For more information, visit www.codot.gov/programs/expresslanes

For more information about CDOT, visit www.coloradodot.info

About the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE): The HPTE operates as a government-owned, independent business within CDOT. It searches out innovative ways to finance projects to help Colorado fulfill its commitment to increase travel choices through options that include Express Lanes, transit, biking, walking and carpooling. For more information, visit www.coloradohpte.com.

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Transit-oriented development taking root around B Line’s Westminster Station

By Emilie Rusch, The Denver Post
November 12, 2016

The commuter rail line connecting Westminster and Denver Union Station may not have received the same fanfare when it opened this summer as its airport-bound sibling, but developers have already begun to lay claim to the land around the only new station on the 6.2-mile B Line.

City officials hope that Westminster Station, near West 70th Avenue and Federal Boulevard on the city’s south side, could someday become more than a Park-n-Ride but the center of a vibrant mixed-use, transit-oriented district.

“Originally, RTD was just calling for a surface lot,” city economic development coordinator Jenni Grafton said. “But we knew the potential, not only because of how close it is to downtown but as a real catalyst for redevelopment in south Westminster.”

To that end, $75 million in public investments in the station and surrounding area — $40 million of which came from the City of Westminster — are nearing completion, highlighted by a new, 40-acre park south of the train platform spanning all the way from Federal to Lowell Boulevard.

When completed next spring, Westminster Station Park will host regional trail connections, nature play areas, a 14-foot-widepedestrian bridge, restrooms and a new road. Little Dry Creek was realigned through the site, lowering the flood elevation and creating a 2.5-acre flood control pond that will later be stocked with fish, senior projects engineer Seth Plas said during a tour last week as part of the Urban Land Institute’s TOD Marketplace conference.

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