Parkway law swap OKed

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It was a bumpy road, but a land swap to grant a swath of the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge for use as a new tollway through Jefferson County has happened.

The $10 million land swap deal, involving U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, Jefferson and Boulder counties, the city of Arvada and others, officially adds 617 acres of land to the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge. In exchange, the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA) was granted a 300-foot-wide transportation right-of-way along the refuge’s eastern edge, over the objections of some nearby cities and environmental groups.

“I am delighted that we have overcome all the obstacles through hard work and perseverance by our fellow county commissioners, mayors and council members and their staffs as well as the United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the State Land Board and the many others who have negotiated and compromised, always keeping in mind the vision of what is best for our citizens,” said Jefferson County Board of Commissioners chair Don Rosier following the decision.

The land swap was opposed by a lawsuit claiming an inadequate environmental review, filed by environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and Rocky Mountain Wild, along with the cities of Superior and Golden.

In mid-December a federal judge ruled that the swap was legal, and dismissed the lawsuit. Superior and the environmental groups filed an appeal, along with a request for a temporary injunction to keep the deal from being finalized on Dec. 31 as scheduled. The injunction was initially granted, but the three-judge panel decided to let the deal close as scheduled after receiving a rebuttal to the injunction by the JPPHA.

The JPPHA may now proceed with plans to construct a 10-mile toll road.

The new road would connect the current terminus of the E-470 Northwest Parkway in Broomfield to Highway 93, about three miles north of the city of Golden, as part of the continuing effort to complete a ring road around the Denver Metro Area. Like the Northwest Parkway, the road would be public, but rely on the investment of a private investor, who would then receive the parkway’s fee revenue.

JPPHA Interim Executive Director Bill Ray said the lawsuit set back the parkway project by at least a year, even as the project itself still has years of study and planning ahead.

Ray added that “extensive environmental reviews,” would still need to be conducted for the major interchanges, and affected wetlands associated with the parkway plan.

Ray said the authority would be watching closely, in case the federal lawsuit is granted an appeal.

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