Let’s have a study pt 3

Update Oct 2014 down below ****

road-construction.jpg

In order for this to make sense, start here.   Then, here.  Ok, here today is part three.  They have finally agreed on a solution.  Apparently, there was a fourth consideration I wasn’t aware of.  In order to ease congestion on the i-70, they are going to charge a toll to use it.  It will be $5 a pop to use the freeway to get into the mountains.  Why?  Lot’s of reasons.  One is that by charging such a toll, less people will use it.  Indeed, congestion is an issue, so their is limited virtue in that thought process.

The other reason is to raise money for the widening.  Yes, apparently we are widening and tolling.  Basically, everyone loses.  See, we have no money for the freeway fixins.  I mean, on it’s face it makes sense.  Except:

What the heck are my tax dollars paying for?  Is this not now a law to keep poor people from camping?  Is this not an elitist and short term solution?  What about people who commute every day?  Is this designed just to punish tourists?  I thought that is what hotel and rental car taxes were for.   This solution is stupid, and angers me.  I don’t want to pay a toll to use my mountains and roads.  Also, I don’t want my mountains paved over with roads.  Nobody does, that is why we call them the Rocky Mountains… not the Rocky Mountain Roads.  Maybe Coors should get rid of their current logo and just have a stretch of pavement as their icon.

Let’s say you widen the road from two lanes each way to three lanes each way.  That is 33% more traffic.  You see that, I guess.  I see 33% more pollution, plus an absolute dreaded ten year construction cycle marring the mountains.  Oh, and a bonus $5 per way levee to sit in construction for the next ten years.  Right now, we need an obstructionist!  John Caldera, where are you?

*** update Oct 2014

It’s been 6 or 7 years, and not much has happened.  Well, they tried metering.  Unlike assholes like me, who sit on their couch and decry the efforts of those trying solutions. It was a great idea.  It was counter intuitive and most definitely out of the box thinking.  It worked, but not nearly to the level they needed it to.  I totally respect the effort, though.  In the 17 years I have been here, it is the most anyone has done about anything… except studies.  I respect the CDOT like hell for not just sitting around and waiting for someone to hand them 200 million bucks.

The other update is this; someone recently suggested banning big rigs from the freeway.  That is dumb, short sighted… and (most importantly) mean.  The trucker’s aren’t the problem.  If they were, it wouldn’t just be on Sunday afternoons heading East back to Denver.  It’s the skiers.  I am not blaming the skiers.  Well, actually, I am.  It is the skiers.  However, they are super duper critical to the success of the mountain towns economies.  To ban skiers is as dumb as banning trucks.

Last Winter (that of 2013) was a breaking point… to me at least.  It became a 10 hour struggle to make it the 11 miles from Dillon, CO (the first town at the base of i-70 once you cross the tunnel) to the tunnel.  Ten hours… in a snowstorm.  Does your car have fuel for ten hours?  Do you pack ten hours worth of food when you go skiing?  You can’t turn your car off, either, to save fuel.  You need the heat.  Last fall we took a trip and got stuck in that, and ended up taking the most terrifying detour around I have ever experienced as a driver.  Knowing it was going to be shitty, I bought $50 worth of jerky.  It was a lifesaver.

I want to clarify something.  I am not bitching.  Well, I was.  I am older and wiser now.  I love Colorado.  I love the mountains.  I love my truck.  I was reminded of this recently when I saw a freeway sign in Los Angeles.  It said “you are not in traffic, you are the traffic”.  So, I don’t want to come off as a nimby.  I am absolutely a part of the problem here, being a driver.  This is why I have a vested interest in making things better.  It’s selfish.

Here is the big concern, very soon it is going to be deadly.  Someone is going to run our of medication stuck on that road.  Once the backup starts, you can’t get off.  You are packed in.  You can’t pull of the road or even turn around.  They can’t get an ambulance or a wrecker to you.  Even if you called 911 they could not get a medivac helicopter to you, because this happens during snow storms.

I know no one wants to think about it, or spend that much, but I have the solution.  It isn’t cheap or easy or maybe even fair.  It will solve everything, and works long term.  I said it ten years ago, and I’ll say it again.  I am just waiting for you yahoos to to figure out that I was correct.   Monorail.

Let’s have a study – part 2

Ok, read this first (unless you already read it). We have an update on the I-70 transportation study thingy. See, apparently we spent $25 million on choices for the I-70 corridor expansion. Before we did that, it was decided not to look at rail. So, in the five year $25 million dollar study, we looked at everything except rail. Know what that is? Widening the I-70 for more lanes.

Before we ever had a study, before we ever blew $25 million on said study, we knew this: we could do a light rail train, or widen the I-70 to accommodate more lanes. Before the study, someone said “no to the train”. This is because it is incredibly expensive, about a million dollars a mile. I get it, that is really expensive. So, the $25 million study looked at widening the I-70. This Spring, they announced they were close to releasing the study on widening the I-70.

Then, mountain communities (who were apparently completely unaware this was happening), said “absolutely NO to widening the I-70.” So, here is your $25 million dollar assesment:

Widen the I-70 to accomodate more lanes or (ruled out)

Build a light rail commuter train (ruled out)

ban all big rigs from the i-70 (wisely ruled out, 2014 update)

What, exactly, did we get for our $25 million? No one is quite sure. So along comes today’s story in the Denver news. Since we have officially ruled our rail and widening (oh, and the $25 million study isn’t out yet)… they are calling for us to consider the rail/commuter train option again.

“He believes very strongly we should be analyzing rail as an option for this corridor,” said CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman.

So, what do we do now? We ruled out widening and so it looks like we’ll need to commision a study on commuter rail. Oh wait, we can’t. We can’t because we already spent $25 million f**king dollars to study the widening idea which no one wanted in the first place (but just told us that now)!

The public needs to tell us what they want to see, but there’s no money for anything now

What angers me isn’t the dialogue at all. This is an important discussion, and I see both sides. I see why rail would be awesome (nearly pollution free and weather proof) but is impossibly expensive ($7 billion to build). Ok, good arguments. How about the widening idea? Well, that is just more pavement and more pollution. Truly not much of a long term or ecological solution at all… but WAY cheaper than the train.

I don’t even mind this process taking ten years (it took five years to get the five year study together). These are big decisions. What drives me insane is that we spent $25 million to do a mock up on widening on the I-70 (instead of just spending $25 million to actually widen the I-70).

Well, we considered rail and bus from the get go… roughly about $25 million dollars ago. Light Rail is on the table again, and with transportation costs rising rapidly, we are about a two years away from some genius deciding we should do a study re-thinking the widening idea.

Let’s have a study!

 

*** udpate March 2018 below

So, when I moved to Denver ten years ago, they talked about crowding on the I-70. The I-70 is our main thoroughfare through the mountains, and the only way to get to the ski resorts (of which we have millions). It was agreed that something needed to be done about congestion on the 70. See, on Sundays, the I-70 pretty much comes to a stop heading Eastbound (into Denver). So, they figured they have a few solutions:

1. Widen the I-70 to accommodate more lanes

2. Do a bus only lane (would also require widening)

3. Light rail through the mountains (would also help pollution)

Easy, boy, said the electorate. Let’s not be rash in our decisions. Let’s have a study. They did a ten year study which is concluding this summer. Millions spent on it. You know, millions that could have gone to a solution instead went to discussing the solution. Eggheads call that ‘Analysis Paralysis’, and I agree. So, ten years later the report is about ready and here are the suggestions:

– Widen the I-70 to accomodate more lanes

– Do a bus only lane (would also require widening)

– Light rail through the mountains (would also help pollution)

25 Million smakeroos. $25 Million dollars and ten years to come up with the same solutions. $25 Million that could have been spent on solutions. Awesome!

So, they announce their same three solutions and the mountain communities say “no way to widening, NO WAY“. Valid concern, but dig this. This didn’t come up during the ten year study. I guess no one asked them. This only came up after the ten year study was released this month. Really? Couldn’t the mountain communities have told us that ten years ago? Or, maybe, anytime in the last ten years? Really, we did a ten year study of what to do with traffic through the mountain communities and no one asked the mountain communities? Not once in ten years? Apparently not:

 

He says mountain communities feel like they were excluded from a previous study which focused mainly on widening the highway to six lanes.

Well, if we can’t widen… then that pretty much throws out the bus idea. This is fine, because the buses would be super- pollutey. If you know Denver, you know the ‘brown cloud’. So, what solutions do we have? To me, and many others, the best solution seemed light rail (a train of sorts). It would be fast, weather proof (a biggie), and require less environmental destruction (paving) then the widening. Problem is, light rail is super expensive. It costs about a million dollars a mile. We don’t have that kinda cash. Of course, we did have $25 million. We probably could have built a test line from Morrison to the Tunnel… or Evergreen. Problem is, we blew that $25 million discussing the widening. The widening idea was tabled after two weeks of public discourse.

Ten years, not a single thing solved. Ten years. They handed it to the public, who solved the concern in two weeks. So the real question isn’t how do we solve the I-70 conundrum. Obviously no one really cares about that. The real question is how do I get myself on one of these study groups?

*** Update March 2018 ***

There is a solution, of sorts.  Though they never announced it, and I am not even sure it was a choice… they have opted to only expand the roads by toll roads. To go ANY direction out of Denver, CO… you get a toll road.