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Plans to build the Jefferson Parkway are inching along, but there’s still a few hurdles to get over before the project can make major progress of moving forward.
“There’s positive movement of making this project a reality,” said Bill Ray, interim executive director of the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA). “Conversations are going along satisfactorily.”
Currently, a financial adviser firm is looking into the financial feasibility of the parkway, Ray said. The firm will update and advise the JPPHA on its findings near the end of March or beginning of April.
Only one of three things can happen, Ray said.
It could be determined that it would be “wildly successful, that there’s no way it can happen or somewhere in between,” Ray said. “That will be the conversation that takes place.”
The Jefferson Parkway is a proposed toll road intended to close the gap between State Highway 128 in Broomfield and State Highway 93 near West 58th Avenue, north of Golden.
The JPPHA is made up of representatives from Jefferson County, the City and County of Broomfield and the City of Arvada. The JPPHA board also has two non-voting members — representatives from the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the Regional Air Quality Council.
Following the financial feasibility, the next step will be working on the proposal for the private partnership, Ray said. This will take about five months, he said, and is expected to begin sometime this summer. The private partner will be responsible for building and maintaining the parkway.
The third step will be putting the project proposal out to market, with the private partner selection to take place by June 2019 and a financial agreement by late August.
Then construction could begin, Ray said, aiming for an opening day sometime in 2020.
Another conversation to be had is one with the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners. Former county commissioner Don Rosier made an offer that the county would reimburse the JPPHA an approximate half a million dollars that was used for various environmental and engineering work, and legal analysis, Ray said.
The current county commissioners — Casey Tighe, Libby Szabo and Tina Francone —were not aware of the agreement, Ray said, until his presentation to them on Feb. 20.
“As we continue to pursue development of the parkway and explore the remaining development opportunities in the county, it’s important we plan wisely, maximize efficiencies and ensure a transparent process,” Francone said, when asked for comment on her level of support for the parkway.
Additional transportation infrastructure is needed throughout Jefferson County, Tighe said.
The parkway could provide a linkage to other roads in the system, and be a part of an overall improvement, he said.
But, he added that the entire system needs improvement, and he would like to explore “options to build and operate the parkway through a public transportation authority, and evaluate those options along with the current private partnership approach.”
“The WestConnect effort, which includes local governments throughout this area, is trying to address these larger system needs,” Tighe said. “I want to continue to work with the WestConnect Coalition to find ways to improve our entire transportation system.”
Recently, the WestConnect Coalition, which is a collaborative effort led by local and state agencies, and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) completed a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study. The PEL study took place along C-470 between Kipling Street and Interstate 70, and along the US 6/CO 93 corridor between Golden and Boulder. The purpose was to evaluate and develop short-term and long-term transportation alternatives and identify proposed improvements, which included options to reduce congestion, improve operational performance and safety and address future transportation needs.
“Ultimately, people use a toll road for time and convenience,” Ray said. “It’s a matter of choice.”
The JPPHA has no authority to collect taxes to pay for the Jefferson Parkway, Ray said. A toll is a fee, not a tax, he said. The Jefferson Parkway will add a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure at no cost to the tax payer, Ray said.
One thing that has recently stalled progress on the parkway is coming up with a resolution concerning airport runways and highway alignment. In February last year, Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport’s former director Bryan Johnson wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding Jefferson County’s request to release and allow concurrent use of lands located on the airport for the Jefferson Parkway.
John Bauer, manager of the Denver Airports District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration, returned a letter on July 5, 2017, and stated that the FAA does not concur with the land use proposal for the portion of the proposed Jefferson Parkway that would fall within the airport’s runway protection zones and runway safety areas.
In September of last year, Ray stated that although it might take time, the JPPHA is confident that reasonable solutions to address the concerns of the FAA can be reached.
As of current, stakeholders in the issue have not come to an agreement, but conversations continue, Ray said, noting he recently met with the FAA in Washington.
For the past 10 years, ownership of most of the right of ways needed for the parkway belong to one of the three governmental agencies. And the cost was shared between the three for the purchased land, Ray said.
When the JPPHA formed in May 2008, the participating governments each gave $100,000 for initial startup funding.
In 2016, each governmental agency agreed to contribute a reimbursable $400,00 each — a total of $1.2 million — in both 2017 and 2018, Ray said.
The money is reimbursable upon completion of the parkway, Ray said. By the end of this year, the governmental agencies will be clear whether the parkway will happen, he said.
And at that time, they “can make an informed decision as to if they want to continue contributing,” Ray said.
There are a lot of moving parts to making the parkway happen, but things are moving along, Ray said.
“It’s an uphill climb, but we can see where we need to get to,” Ray said. “The parkway is on a positive pathway right now.”
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