4 February 2015: Time for County to draw a line in the sand

County needs to draw a line in the sand

In my last two columns I discussed the scope of the I-70 Corridor problem as well as the single-solution mindset of CDOT: widen and pave it.  I hold to four contentions:

  • For over 97 percent of the time, the highway as it exists is more than adequate.
  • For the remaining 2 to 3 percent of time, there is no on-ground solution.
  • Expansion of the highway’s foot print is more than inimical to Clear Creek’s interests; it’s destructive to the community and environment.
  • Clear Creek, where the action is taking place, is no longer a full-fledged partner in the decision-making process.

Where to turn?

To the west, Vail has morphed from a jewel of Colorado ski country to corporate behemoth, interested more in expanding its power and control than just being quintessential Colorado.  A few years ago it bought Breckenridge and Keystone in its effort to monopolize skiing there and lately muscled out and took over Park City, Utah.  Like any corporate entity, it’s interested in growth.  Wallets from Denver need to be delivered.  Unfortunately for Clear Creek, the only real path to Vail and Summit is the I-70 Corridor.

To the east, it seems Gov. Hickenlooper likes taking credit for I-70 “improvements,” but also likes remaining above the fray, and, according to Commissioner Tim Mauck, that’s from where the problem has arisen.

“Hickenlooper and (outgoing Director Don) Hunt have added so much bureaucracy and layers and silos of management that other projects have been designed and implemented without considering how the parts make up the whole,” says Mauck.

“Decision making, and general awareness of projects have been removed from the Regional office, those individuals in CDOT we work most closely with.  Many services—operations, transit, environmental—have been sent back to headquarters, thus compromising our ability to negotiate services CDOT is working on or implementing in a way that best serves the local communities.”

Mauck cites other areas as examples: Clear Creek being snubbed by CDOT Transit for a bus stop; wetlands north of Georgetown; lynx habitat near Bakerville; and the elimination of bike access from Fall River Rd. to Idaho Springs when the PPSL—toll lane—is finished.

“I am utterly convinced this all comes down to Hickenlooper and how he operates.  As long as the steamroller of progress is moving forward, Hickenlooper continues to ride on until the pin on a grenade is pulled.  That’s the only thing he appreciates to get his attention.

“It’s not CDOT, and it’s certainly not the regional office.  Our problems are the fruits born of a system that Hickenlooper and the ‘business’ people he puts into his Cabinet have implemented.  Treat it like a business.  Spend where the return on investment is good (Denver/Vail) and cut your services where the ROI is poor (Clear Creek).”

I can attest to what Mauck avers in part.  In May 2014, I hosted CDOT Region 1 (I-70 Corridor) Director Tony DeVito on KYGT along with Mauck, CCC Land use Director JoAnn Sorensen and Dan Ebert.  We had a great conversation—on the radio’s website—in which DeVito, who brought his son with him to do some fishing, came across as genuine and sensitive to CCC needs.  It also become painfully clear DeVito was an implementer of policy rather than creator.

With regard to Hickenlooper however, he’s also demonstrated a social conscious on issues such as the death penalty and in the end that’s the crux of the I-70 Corridor problem for Clear Creek.  For Summit/Vail and metro-area patrons of it, I-70 is about speed and time; for Clear Creek, it’s about home, from community and business health to the environment.

Two recent letters in the Post demonstrate that, one from a Summit resident pleased about the widening of the Veterans Memorial Tunnels and another from a metro area driver advocating widening I-70 through the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels.  While only two voices, they speak for thousands who see the corridor in simplistic, self-serving terms.

Clear Creek has to go on the offensive in the court of public opinion: letters to the editor in the Denver Post, the Vail Daily, and the Summit Daily News; political, business, and community leaders on KOA and other talk radio stations in Denver, Summit and Vail; and billboard ads in Idaho Springs are possibilities.

Rep. KC Becker and Sen. Kevin Grantham need to stand with and speak for Clear Creek in the legislature, to CDOT, and vis-à-vis their other constituents who fall for the simplistic widening argument.

And Gov. Hickenlooper needs to be pestered until he shows up and listens.

It’s time to draw the line in the sand for if we don’t, we’re finished.

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