BY FREDA MIKLIN
On October 19, Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe held a telephone town hall to share some of the key findings and recommendations of the county’s 2040 Transportation Master Plan (TMP) including a focus on district two that Sharpe represents.
Bryan Weimer, the county’s public works director and previous transportation division manager, shared that by 2025, Arapahoe County will have a larger population than the City and County of Denver and by 2050, it will have over one million residents, so “we need to plan for it.”
The TMP is the product of stakeholders including the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), Arapahoe County Transportation Forum, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and most significantly, members of the public whose input was sought through multiple venues from the start of the project in April 2020, resulting in nearly 800 comments. Those responses indicated that residents’ priorities are traffic congestion and traffic safety, followed by road maintenance and multi-modal improvements including micro-transit options like bikes and scooters.
The final draft of the TMP was posted on the county website on October 27 and it will be presented to the BOCC in November.
Weimer started with the importance of multi-modal transportation, which includes all manner of “how we move people, goods and cars.” He said, “Transportation has no boundaries. It goes between jurisdictions. Thirty years ago, Arapahoe County was on the fringe (of the metro area). Now we are in the middle. “We can’t build our way of out of congestion,” he said, noting that the goal is to “maintain the current level of congestion.”
The stated goals of the 2040 TMP are:
Promote an efficient and balanced transportation system, e.g., improve north-south and east-west connectivity in the rural area of the county.
Promote alternative transportation solutions.
Coordinate land use and transportation.
Continue a strategic management and tracking approach to the county’s transportation system.
One aspect of public outreach included asking people if they expected to return to work in their offices. Findings revealed that only 40 percent planned to go back to work as usual while 30 percent said they would only go back on a partial basis. Nevertheless, Weimer reported that “data shows that we are returning to pre-pandemic levels of traffic volume.” The spikes at the peak hours are not as high but peak hours are being extended into longer periods of time.
Another aspect of the TMP was to identify congestion hot spots around the county. Of the total of 44 intersections or road segments that were determined to be hot spots, 34 were in cities and 10 were in the unincorporated areas of the county. Improvements for those locations will be chosen from the most appropriate of these tools:
Physical changes, including turn lanes, turn radii and medians
Changes in traffic signals, including timing, coordination, adaptive, pedestrian crossings, and bus priority lanes.
Pavement surface and markings, including crosswalks and rumble strips.
Changes in signing, including warning/advisory and dynamic speed feedback.
Focusing on district two, represented by Sharpe, west of I-25, an identified needed road project is the Santa Fe and Mineral Interchange. The estimated cost for a “quad road” there is $11.5 million to be shared by Arapahoe County, CDOT and Littleton. Another identified project is the Mary Carter Greenway improvements, which is estimated to cost $2.4 million to be shared by Arapahoe County, Sheridan, Englewood, Littleton and South Suburban Parks and Recreation.
East of I-25 and west of E-470, a needed project to widen Smoky Hill Road from E-470 to Buckley Road is expected to cost $14 million and would include participation from Aurora and Centennial, along with the county.
An important multi-modal project on Inverness Drive West is an on-street bike facility to allow people to use bikes for the last mile commute from the light rail station at a cost of $5.9 million for which Inverness-area business districts would participate with the county.
Another goal of the TMP is to engage with Reimagine RTD and the RTD accountability committee recommendations to explore new bus route extensions with new development. The county also plans to coordinate with cities to establish mobility hubs where all types of transportation modalities meet. There are 40 bicycle and pedestrian projects included in the TMP.
Arapahoe County estimates the cost for capital projects identified in the TMP through 2040, including road widening, new connections, paving, bicycle and pedestrian projects will be $250 million but that total will be shared with the federal government, CDOT and local cities in which projects are located. Estimates were not calculated for new or revised interchanges or transit.
The complete 74-page improvement recommendations report for the TMP, prepared by highly-respected local area traffic engineers Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig for Arapahoe County Public Works and Development can be found by going to https://www.arapahoegov.com/2125/2040-Transportation-Master-Plan and choosing the “view the recommendations” option.
Statistically speaking, 450,000 vehicle hours of travel are logged on Arapahoe County roads each day and that number is expected to grow to 650,000. Returning to his earlier statement that the goal is to contain congestion because reducing it is unlikely, Weimer noted, “Right now, 22 percent of vehicle road hours are congested. If we implement the recommendations that we’ve identified, that number will only grow to 26 percent which is managing the congestion. If we don’t do these improvements, congested vehicle road hours can be expected to grow to 50 percent.
A caller asked about autonomous vehicles, to which Weimer responded, “They are out there now. Car companies are making sure that they are safe. We suspect they will come on board within the next ten years. We will see even more electric vehicles even sooner. 5G is the trigger to vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity which will soon be on towers. Autonomous vehicles are more complicated because they will require very good lane marking and striping to work.” Commissioner Sharpe pointed out that making sure all roads are accurately and visibly striped to accommodate autonomous vehicles will require extra attention on the part of local governments.