The debate on how to improve the traffic situation on I-70 from Denver into the mountains continues in the Senate Transportation Committee meeting room today as bills from opposite sides of the legislative aisle get consideration.
Although the two bills are sponsored by Sens. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, it is worth noting that they are both proposing road or congestion pricing for the I-70 corridor. They disagree on the details of how such a framework would operate and how revenues might be re-invested, but the foundation of their proposals seem to cross political ideology — use market forces to manage an increasingly scare resource (otherwise known as road capacity).
There may be a number of reasons these proposals are on the committee table now rather than after groups such as the I-70 Coalition have made their recommendations, but that’s a reality of the legislative process. Nevertheless, the combination of successful congestion pricing programs in London and Stockholm and the proposals for similar programs in New York City and San Francisco make the idea a powerful one that will likely become a part of the package for I-70 regardless of the outcome of the Romer and McElhany bills this year.
The reality of decreasing transportation funding from gas taxes, increasing construction costs, and limited geography is making congestion pricing an increasingly viable tool to manage traffic and congestion in communities and on highways.
As Gordon Price, transportation Planner and former City Councilor in Vancouver, has commented, “congestion turns out to be an inevitable consequence when the private sector produces and unlimited number of vehicles and expects the public sector to spend limited resources to build an unlimited amount of space for them to run on.”
Put another way, the age of “freeways” is drawing to a close in the Mountain West.
Many people in the U.S. have heard the expression “changing the rules of the game.” In some European cities, however, traffic engineers are just about eliminating the rules of the road and removing all the streets signs American drivers are so familiar with.
As Matthias Schulz writes at Spiegel Online:
The plans derive inspiration and motivation from a large-scale experiment in the town of Drachten in the Netherlands, which has 45,000 inhabitants. There, cars have already been driving over red natural stone for years. Cyclists dutifully raise their arm when they want to make a turn, and drivers communicate by hand signs, nods and waving.
“More than half of our signs have already been scrapped,” says traffic planner Koop Kerkstra. “Only two out of our original 18 traffic light crossings are left, and we’ve converted them to roundabouts.” Now traffic is regulated by only two rules in Drachten: “Yield to the right” and “Get in someone’s way and you’ll be towed.”
Strange as it may seem, the number of accidents has declined dramatically. Experts from Argentina and the United States have visited Drachten. Even London has expressed an interest in this new example of automobile anarchy. And the model is being tested in the British capital’s Kensington neighborhood.
To the joy (and relief) of bicyclists, Garco Commissioners decided spend extra funds to use smaller-diameter gravel on chip seal projects for six county roads that cyclists frequently use.
The Garfield County commissioners also said they will consider spending extra taxpayer dollars on some road projects this summer to accommodate cyclists.
Garfield County budgeted $1.1 million this summer for routine maintenance of some of its road network. The roads in roughest shape will receive a new chip seal surface, with the 3/4-inch gravel.
At Commissioner Tresi Houpt’s suggestion, the county got a second bid on topping the 3/4-inch gravel with a 3/8-inch mixture. The bid came in at $652,000 for all the projects.
Houpt supported spending that amount and topping all roads scheduled for work this summer with the smoother surface.
Read Scott Condon’s full article . . .
Rising construction costs and lower-than-projected sales-tax revenues have the The Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver seeking federal support for a plan to contract with private firms to finance, design, build, operate and maintain as many as four commuter rail lines. The north metro, northwest, Gold and DIA rail lines will cost more than $2 billion.
RTD applied late last month to join the Federal Transit Administration’s public-private partnership pilot program, which promotes more extensive links between public transit agencies and private businesses.
Read the full article . . .
Text version of FTA Public-Private Partnership Program
Transit oriented development is gaining traction around the U.S. (it’s already popular in many other countries) because it can address many community issues — provide affordable housing, increase transit service, prevent loss of open space, create public places — at the same time.
And now, in case you needed another reason to support TOD, it can also save the planet. As San Mateo County Supervisior Adrienne Tissier writes,
The solutions to global warming are found in modern urban planning and zoning and three little words: Transit Oriented Development. Build well-designed, affordable housing within walking distance of efficient mass transit, and the air-fouling traffic jams will unclog themselves. Better yet, build well-designed, affordable housing within walking distance of jobs, schools and retail, and car use will plummet.
It is nice to know that something good for a community has a global benefit as well.
A decade ago, writing about the hellacious commute many put up with to get into Aspen, was almost a daily occurance. It looks likethe region is heading into another similar cycle of concern
As Charles Agar writes in the Aspen Times Weekly,
Perhaps the most obvious human cost of the upper valley’s stratospheric real estate market is the ever-longer commutes from affordable homes to higher-paying jobs in or near Aspen. Long commutes cost time and money; they pollute the environment and erode people’s sense of community. Most of the those who spend hours of each working day on Highway 82 have accepted the commute as a necessary trade-off, but it’s getting harder for upper valley employers to find the help they need . . .
More and more Aspen workers are commuting over the Grand Hogback, an area named for a ridge along Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs, to towns like New Castle, Silt and Rifle.
“Ridership is going through the roof,” said Dave Iverson, operations manager with Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. Statistics for city transport in Aspen and Glenwood have increased sharply, and the number of riders traveling the length of the valley and along the Hogback are rising steadily. In December 2006, nearly 23,000 riders made the round trip to Carbondale, and nearly 6,000 made the trip through the Hogback area, he said, a rise of 13 percent since 2005 . . .
Aspen faces a shrinking labor market, and even Aspen’s affordable housing program, which provides the option of lower-cost home ownership in Aspen, is not enough to entice many to the area. Many home-buyers choose the free market, even if it means moving to western Garfield County, over the 3 percent appreciation caps on employee-housing units in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.
Read the full article . . .