For those who support the proposed four-lane toll road intended to close the gap between State Highway 128 in Broomfield and State Highway 93 north of Golden, it is a major economic and …
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This is part one of a series exploring the Jefferson Parkway as it's on the verge of becoming a reality. Reporters Christy Steadman and Casey Van Divier will explore community attitudes towards the project, the nuts and bolts of what it will take to build, the environmental concerns around it and the process forward if it is built.
Plans for a beltway encircling the metro area reach back to at least the 1960’s.
First known as Interstate 470 (I-470), it was officially approved for study in December 1968. The Federal Highway Administration began its various studies, but by the mid-1970s, I-470 was met with much opposition, particularly about its environmental and land use impacts, and the highway was never built.
Instead, Centennial Parkway, which is now called Colorado State Highway 470 (C-470) was built, connecting I-70 in Golden to I-25 just east of Lone Tree. Construction began in 1982 and was completed in 1990. It remains toll-free. However, current construction on additional express toll lanes is nearly complete.
In 1989, voters were asked during a special election whether they would pay an additional $10 annual vehicle registration fee to help fund "W-470," to connect C-470 and E-470. Voters rejected the ballot measure 5-1.
Commuters can merge from C-470 onto Extension 470 (E-470), which is a tollway that runs to approximately I-25 in Thornton. The first segment of E-470 opened in June 1991 and the final segment opened in January 2003.
E-470 is designed to meet with the Northwest Parkway, another toll road which extends 470 to Broomfield. Construction on it began in June 2001 and it opened Jan. 1, 2004.
— Christy Steadman
For those who support the proposed four-lane toll road intended to close the gap between State Highway 128 in Broomfield and State Highway 93 north of Golden, it is a major economic and infrastructure boon.
For residents who live along the intended route, the Jefferson Parkway is an unwanted and costly disaster, threatening their environment and health, bringing noise and light pollution to their neighborhoods.
Regardless of those two divergent opinions, the Jefferson Parkway “is going to happen,” Arvada Councilmember Bob Fifer said during an April meeting. “It’s just (a matter of) how do we shape it and how do we evolve it into something that doesn’t divide a community, but hopefully builds a community.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) first had the idea to construct a six-lane, 70-mph beltway of about 100 miles that looped around the entire Denver metro area in the late 1960s.
Proponents of the Jefferson Parkway feel the proposed tollway is needed to nearly complete the originally-envisioned beltway loop, while opposers argue that there is no demand for it.
“If the road had some redeemable values, I would be all in favor of modification,” said Jeff Staniszewski.
A resident of Arvada’s Leyden Rock area, Staniszewski’s community would be split in two if the Jefferson Parkway is built on its currently proposed alignment. He leads a citizens group called Movement to Stop Jefferson Parkway.
“Our approach has been, ‘you need to stop’ (because) nobody wants it. They have no data to demonstrate that people want the road.”
Parkway planners do want it though, seeing a growing need for the missing segment of the 470 concept.
“With the many transportation needs in Colorado, this is a way to get connectivity and alleviate congestion on other roads,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo who serves as vice chair of the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA). It “is an opportunity to address growth and connectivity without taxing Jefferson County residents.”
In terms of connectivity though, opponents of the parkway plan also have room to gripe — about 20 miles of roadway would be missing to make a seamless transition on the north end at the Northwest Parkway and on the south end, just north of Golden’s city limits. As currently proposed, the Jefferson Parkway would end about one mile north of West 64th Parkway and Highway 93. Drivers would still need to use Highway 93 and U.S. 6, travelling through several Golden stoplights, to reach C-470. On the north end, it would terminate on Highway 128 in the Interlocken area of Broomfield, a few miles away from the Northwest Parkway, separated by the Interlocken Loop south of the Denver Boulder Turnpike.
Three separate entities would have a role in completing the connectivity. They are the JPPHA, CDOT for the Highway 93 and U.S. 6 portion and the Northwest Parkway Public Highway Authority for the northern gap.
Planning for the Jefferson Parkway began in the early 2000s. But in its current form, didn’t get going until the JPPHA formed in 2008. The JPPHA currently consists of voting members who represent Jefferson County, the city and county of Broomfield and the city of Arvada; one non-voting member from the Regional Transportation District (RTD); and an executive director.
From 2008 to date, Jefferson County, Arvada and Broomfield have together funded about $12 million to the JPPHA. This money went toward initial startup costs for the authority, as well as right of way purchases and various impact studies — environmental and traffic, for example. About $500,000 was spent in legal fees concerning the portion of the proposed Jefferson Parkway closest to Rocky Flats over environmental concerns. In 2012, Golden and the town of Superior sued to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from transferring a 300-foot right-of-way to the JPPHA, but the lawsuit failed.
The JPPHA has requested another $7.5 million — $2.5 million from each governmental entity — for 2019. The county included this money in its 2019 budget, which was approved last year, and Arvada approved the funding in April. The decision from Broomfield is pending.
This money will help the authority pay for the selection process of the private partner for the parkway.
The Jefferson Parkway will be owned as a public entity by the JPPHA, but privately financed through a partner also responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the parkway, according to Bill Ray, executive director of the JPPHA.
The partner will be reimbursing the governmental agencies’ advances, Ray said. Although the JPPHA has proposed a schedule for full payback with interest, it will still need to be negotiated with the partner selected, Ray said.
Brett Vernon has lived in Leyden Rock for four years and he was a member of the Jefferson Parkway Advisory Committee, which continued through November 2018, and Neighbors of the Parkway, which is a community group formed by Leyden Rock residents.
Neighbors of the Parkway’s mission is not to stop the toll road from happening, but to make sure it’s built well, Vernon said.
“Our job is to work with city council and the (JPPHA) board on how they build it,” Vernon said. “If you get all the people involved working together, you can come up with a good solution.”
The construction, and management, of the parkway will be handled primarily by the JPPHA’s private partner.
Three potential for-profit partners were selected during last year’s preliminary qualifications process.
“There’s a considerable amount of market interest that believes in this project,” Ray said. He added that the Jefferson Parkway, however, will be a long-term commitment and it is imperative for the JPPHA to “make sure we anticipate everything that may come up in the life span of the concession.”
The JPPHA is waiting for Broomfield to make its decision on the $2.5 million before the formal request for a parkway proposal is sent out, Ray said.
Broomfield’s city council has tabled the issue of the $2.5 million, and as of press time has not scheduled a meeting to discuss it further.
Ray said that assuming Broomfield does provide the funding, and the authority board approves it, details of the parkway plan will be posted on the JPPHA’s website.
Ground could break on the parkway in early 2020. It would take an estimated two years to build.
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