2017

How do we do this?

Even 25 years ago, traffic would back up, but it would be for an hour or two. Now, it’s four or five hours. What we’re going to move into is six or eight hours, or 10 hours. And then people just stop going. – Steve Harelson, CDOT program engineer; Denver Post, August 23, 2017

In my September 7th online column, my response to Harelson’s query was, “Exactly. At what point will people quit coming up? What is that tipping point?”

Recently, the Post ran an AP article about traffic bottlenecks costing hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. The study by INRIX, which keeps a global traffic scorecard on traffic congestion, focused on major cities’ traffic hotspots, areas with repeated traffic jams. INRIX ranked them according to their duration, length and frequency.

New York City tops the list with 13,608, but Los Angeles is number one because of the “severity and frequency of its traffic jams.” Denver ranks 21st in America. One wonders by when Denver cracks the top ten.

The Front Range is becoming a megalopolis. The Denver metro area, including Boulder and Aurora, currently ranks 16th in size. Two outlying burbs, Ft. Collins and Greeley, are among the top 15 fastest growing areas. In short, people are relocating to Colorado in overwhelming numbers and they share one commonality: Love of the mountains. I get it. We get it. It’s the reason we came and stay.

It was heartening to read in last week’s Courant about the potential move by the Forest Service to restrict dispersed camping, parking, and campfires on Guanella Pass. Right now, it’s a free-for-all as is hiking on Mount Bierstadt, as I’ve noted previously in this space. It’s a start, but as Commissioner Tim Mauck points out, then what? How do we manage backcountry recreation?

I’ve received several thoughtful responses to my online column “Clear Creek is at the Tipping Point,” which can be read at https://www.jerryfabyanic.com/clear-creek-tipping-point/.

If our goal is, as one writer poses, “to develop Clear Creek County to be an authentic highly desirable destination for mountain recreation, mountain hospitality, mountain ambiance,” the question becomes “How can we do this?”

It begins, the writer suggests, by “attracting the customers who will really appreciate the mountain culture and spend dollars and time (days, not hours) in the county.” Well and good enough. But on the other hand, the writer holds that we don’t want “to attract those who create crowding and congestion but spend little.”

My concern for the latter is the impression of elitism and nimbyism, which I have been accused of for wanting to protect Clear Creek and our eco-system broadly. So, perhaps the question for us: How can we balance the two?

The answer is beyond my ken, but I am convinced of one thing: It cannot begin with or include additional lanes on I-70 through Clear Creek. Period.

Two weeks ago, I penned a tongue-in-cheek piece about CDOT needing to widen I-25 through Denver before adding more lanes up here. Even if CDOT would consider that, it would be an exercise in futility. We cannot build enough lanes. We know that. But worse yet, CDOT knows it too. And that’s the tragedy of the situation as well as the burning frustration.

Up to 50,000 more jobs might be heading to Denver courtesy of Amazon, which translates into a likelihood of another 200,000 new Coloradans. They’d be in addition to the thousands of others flocking here. The reason in large part? Our mountain treasure.

So, back to the question: How can we do this? Readers?

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Note of appreciation: To Mike Caistor for his moving letter about Senator John McCain. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s PBS Vietnam War series provides critical historical context and mind-blowing political revelations. The sights, scenes, and personal stories are gripping and riveting. The ones of McCain and his brother pilots, along with the other POWs, are numbing. Like Mike, over the years I have often disagreed politically with McCain, but I find no human more contemptible than those who disparage, ridicule, and boo him, no matter their office. Take a moment to find and read Joe Scarborough’s article, “Do I even know you anymore?”

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