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Thursday December 8th 2022

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That's what she said

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Boulder’s Elected Leaders: Stuck between a Rock and Hard Place


The prospect of the City of Boulder and Boulder County making a deal with Jefferson County regarding the proposed Jefferson Parkway has alarmed some Jeffco activists who’ve been fighting the proposed toll road for several years.  The Jefferson County Commissioners passed a resolution last month offering to help buy a 640-acre parcel of open space (“Section 16”) adjacent to Highway 93 and the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge in return for the City of Boulder and Boulder County adopting a neutral position regarding the proposed Jefferson Parkway.

Rob Medina, president of Citizens Involved in the Northwest Quadrant, issued a call to action to his membership to contact Boulder’s elected leaders.  In his letter he stated,

This scenario boils down to a bribe, and borders on being unethical and immoral. Road improvements and open space acquisition are good, but not at the expense of our long-term sustainability. Those who would compromise are trading some good for a lot of bad.

Fighting words, to be sure.  When asked to respond, Boulder County Commissioner Will Toor said that he understood the perspective and deep feelings involved.  It has been a 30-year-long battle to rein in the sprawling ambitions of highway advocates and much has been achieved through the process.  According to Toor, the original plans would have resulted in tens of thousands of acres of sprawl development and the highway being routed through Boulder County.  Boulder’s Jewel Mountain Open Space acquisition in Jefferson County helped to squash the “Jefferson Center,”  a 28-square mile urban development project that would have been served by a super highway/tollway.  These efforts and additional open space acquisitions ultimately set the stage for creation of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

If it were up to him, said Commissioner Toor, there would be no Jefferson Parkway, but neither the city nor the county have veto power. Last winter, the City of Boulder and Boulder County, through the efforts of Macon Cowles and Will Toor (the city and county representatives on the Denver Regional Council of Governments-DRCOG) tried unsuccessfully to persuade  DRCOG to reject the Jefferson Parkway proposal.  The parkway and the associated Candelas development are looking more likely, according to Toor.  “Do you keep fighting and risk not stopping it, or negotiate for better mitigation?” asked the commissioner.  “It’s not perfect, but it may be the best we can get.”

Lisa Morzel outlined some of the benefits of taking Jeffco up on its offer at the December 2 City Council meeting, emphasizing preservation of a wildlife migration corridor from the refuge west across Highway 93 into open space.  Toor’s take on the proposal is that it would set boundaries on the Candelas development, limiting its potential extension into greenfields.  Section 16 is the “linch pin” in preventing a line of development along Highway 93 of the sort we see along U.S. 36.  This agreement would also finally “resolve a long-running dispute” between the counties and municipalities and “move from conflict to cooperation.”

The Jeffco commissioners’ offer expires on December 31st, so the city and county need to decide quickly whether to pursue an agreement with Jefferson County and other local governments.  At its December 2, 2010 meeting, Boulder’s City Council discussed Jeffco’s offer.  Council members raised a number of questions and will consider the proposal in depth at their December 21st meeting.  The county is working on a resolution that would express a Statement of Intent prior to the year-end deadline, ultimately leading to an intergovernmental agreement.

The text of Rob Medina’s letter to CINQ members is reproduced below:

We are writing with urgency. The cities of Golden and Boulder are in negotiations with Jefferson County, Arvada, and Broomfield that will essentially allow construction of the Jefferson Toll Road (Jefferson Parkway). The parties are working on an agreement whereby Golden. Boulder and Boulder County remove their opposition to the toll road and Golden gets promises of support for transportation improvements, and Boulder gets some open space. The compromise may happen quickly, so your voice is needed NOW.

This “compromise” may seem like a good idea, but CINQ members disagree vehemently. If Golden and Boulder officials believe in sustainability, then they should also believe that the Jefferson Toll Road should NEVER be built — regardless of the carrot.

What You Can Do

  1. NOW is the time that citizens voice their opinions to Golden, and Boulder City Councils and Boulder Commissioners –
  2. Attend Golden’s City Council meeting and speak during public comment. Next meeting Thursday, December 9, and every Thursday. Also look for special meetings in the near future.
  3. Forward this email to others
  4. Make a contribution to CINQ and join our email group

Reasons This Compromise is a Bad Idea

  1. This scenario boils down to a bribe, and borders on being unethical and immoral. Road improvements and open space acquisition are good, but not at the expense of our long-term sustainability. Those who would compromise are trading some good for a lot of bad.
  2. The toll road is the first step to accelerated development in NW Jefferson County, resulting in more sprawl, further degrading of air quality threatening children’s lungs, increased demand for scarce water resources, and negative impacts to property values, quality of life and wildlife.
  3. There is no guarantee that Golden will get road improvements regardless of any written agreement. Toll road proponents have never demonstrated good faith, and any Inter Governmental Agreement is not legally enforceable.
  4. Getting the money for road improvements in Golden are contingent on Ed Perlmutter getting an earmark through Congress – good luck with that pipe dream.
  5. Construction of the toll road on Rocky Flats threatens public health by spreading plutonium dust. Independent testing this past summer revealed plutonium on the soil surface. Both the state and county health departments have been notified, and have done nothing. Read more
  6. Combined with the Jefferson Toll Road, road improvements in Golden will encourage more development and traffic. What Golden may see as a benefit actually promotes more congestion through Golden. Over time, a 6-lane highway through Golden is far more likely as private toll road owners push for more road capacity.
  7. There is no transportation need for the toll road, and it’s not economically viable. Eventually, the road will be a burden to taxpayers, not unlike the NW Parkway in Broomfield. Currently, tax payers have spent $1M+ to subsidize the “exploration” of the toll road. Tax payers are also being asked to pay several more millions to make the toll road connections at SH93 and SH128. The idea that “only users pay” is a fallacy.
  8. This compromise does nothing to improve SH93 between Golden and Boulder — SH93 isn’t even part of the discussion and county commissioners haven’t lifted a finger to address the problem. Combined with the toll road and more Arvada development, we are still  stuck with a dangerous, 2-lane road – and that’s exactly what toll road proponents want — to protect toll road revenues.  Public safety be dammed – it’s all about the money.
  9. Jefferson County and Arvada have plans to develop more land on the north border of Golden at SH93 and 58th Ave. – on the WEST side. The toll road is the engine to drive development, and this is exactly why the toll road should NEVER be built.
  10. The compromise offers Golden the opportunity to improve 6th/19th Street first, then 93/6th/58 second, then other intersections north along SH93. Factoring in the years or even decades to make these improvements, IF the money is ever found, will pit neighborhoods against neighborhoods as we clamor to make our area the priority.
  11. The Jefferson Toll Road encourages more sprawl, driving, oil consumption, and accelerated climate change.  Precious resources should focus on public transportation, bike use and telecommuting – not more pavement.
  12. Golden and Boulder have the leverage to kill this toll road with continued opposition. Are these efforts expensive? Yes, but worth every penny. Is a positive outcome to stop the Jefferson Toll Road certain? No, but it is a worthy goal, and a far better alternative than a shallow compromise.

Rob Medina
CINQ – Citizens Involved in the Northwest Quadrant

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