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Colorado DOT Addresses Climate Conundrum

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A traffic scene

The Colorado DOT is facing a conundrum sure to be repeated in other areas of the country: balancing its core mission to streamline car and truck transportation with the need to address environmental concerns.

A report in The Colorado Sun details both sides in the debate. On one hand, CDOT director Shoshana Lew sees the possibility of greenhouse gas cuts from a new park that will literally cap the $1.2 billion Central 70 rebuild at Columbine Street in Denver. Eight lanes of heavy-duty traffic will travel underneath while above the road, there will be bike paths, trees, bus stops, and unobstructed mountain views.

Colorado Lawmakers moved to address climate issues in the vast 2021 transportation spending bill, which redefined CDOT’s role to include being the traffic cop for the state’s emission goals.

Those goals, set in 2019, call for 26 percent emission cuts across the economy by 2025, and 50 percent by 2030, from benchmark levels in 2005 of about 140 million tons of carbon dioxide, the Sun reported.

Through better planning for every future road project in Colorado, Lew believes CDOT can help lead the way toward cutting traffic enough to meet the 5- to 10-percent greenhouse gas reductions required by the new legislation’s draft rules that the agency will vote on in December. And not just “can," CDOT officials say, but “must.”

Other parts of the state are not in agreement, however.

The location Weld County commissioner Scott James picks to explain how CDOT is overreaching is the crowded four-lane stretch of Interstate 25 through Mead, a segment in desperate need of widening. Weld County wants to help cut Colorado greenhouse emissions, James said, and with its huge feedlots full of methane-producing cattle, represents one of the best opportunities in the state to cap climate damage.

But if Weld County pushes to widen I-25 to six lanes, the CDOT draft rules will require local officials to spend millions of dollars on “multimodal” connections to buses and trains that don’t exist on the Northern Front Range, and to bike lanes commuters don’t want to use, he said.

“We’ve got people that need to get to their jobs. This is all just numbers in a model and not a true reflection of what’s actually happening,” James said, adding that Weld County believes that to get its pet highway project done under the new rules, it would have to increase public transit capacity 276 percent. “We don’t have that capacity in transit. It doesn’t exist.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

Source: The Colorado Sun

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