Golden, Jeffco Duke it Out in Capitol on Beltway

(Cross-posted from Jeffco Pols)

The completion of a Denver-metropolitan “Beltway” has been as long of a process as it has been contentious. Opening shots were fired nearly 40 years ago, when then-Governor Dick Lamm famously vowed to drive a “silver-stake” through the heart of the project.

Since then, of course, most of the Beltway has been completed, with the exception of what has been called the “Jefferson Parkway” – a stretch of road just north of Golden that would finally, some sixty years after the project was first discussed, loop a belt around the waist of the Metro area.

Former Golden Mayor Jacob Smith was elected in 2007 in part because of his pledge to obstruct the Beltway’s completion. Golden has always opposed the construction of an arterial road so close to home, citing fears of congestion that would forever change the dynamics behind the city’s small-town charm. Negotiations on the issue between Golden, its neighbors, and the county broke down in December.

Since then, the issue has lingered over much of Golden’s relationship with Jefferson County, just as it has for the better part of the last two decades.

Lingered, that is, until last week, when a mysterious piece of legislation popped up under the Golden Dome. Fox 31′s Eli Stokols has the story:


DENVER – Legislation now being drafted to create a government board with the power to complete a toll road beltway around the metro area over the objections of local town and cities is unlikely to go anywhere during the current legislative session, which ends in a few weeks.

“This bill hasn’t even been introduced yet,” said Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, who’s considering sponsoring the legislation if it can be introduced this year. “I haven’t even seen a draft yet, and I have some concerns of my own. So it’s not looking realistic that we can do this in a few weeks.”

But even if the legislation isn’t an imminent threat, the cities it would affect are sounding the alarm over what they perceive as a sweeping extension of the government’s ability to invoke eminent domain.

“The legislature, over the last five-to-10 years, has been limiting eminent domain,” Mike Bestor, the city manager for the City of Golden, told FOX31 Denver Monday. “And now here is this huge grab for dominant eminent domain.

“People want to build this high-speed tollway through our little valley here with no concern for the impact on the quality of life for our homeowners, for our citizens.”

What Bestor is calling a “secret attack” marks the latest impasse in a long-running battle between the city and Jefferson County over the proposed “Jefferson Parkway”, a toll road that would connect C-470 from where it ends just south of Golden north to Colo. 128 in Broomfield, essentially completing the beltway encircling the Denver metro area.

Jefferson County Commissioner — and storybook enthusiastDon Rosier is happy to take credit for this particular “secret attack,” telling KUNC:

Golden has attacked really the entire region and the state by walking away from the negotiation table. They thumbed their nose at the Governor, [and] at CDOT. They didn’t negotiate in good faith…when you look at it, they started it. I hate to say that, but in essence, I want to complete the road and do the best job possible…I do not believe the citizens of Golden have been given all the information. I don’t believe the City Manager, nor has the Mayor been transparent with them.

Rosier’s comments, of course, make this complex issue seem nothing more than a schoolyard fight. “YOU started it!” “No, YOU started it.” Is this kind of dialogue really what we expect from elected officials?  With back-and-forths like this, you have to wonder whether or not Jeffco has a little crush on the City of Golden.  

The Beltway has always really just been talk — it’s never once come close to becoming a reality. This particular piece of legislation, for example, is doomed to fail: no legislator has stepped forward to sponsor it, but even if they did, it would no doubt die an ignominious death. The Jeffco delegation would likely vote against it — excepting Senator Boyd, who is term-limited and has no plans for future office — and would be joined in their opposition, no doubt, by small government Republicans playing lip-service to “local control” and railing against eminent domain.

Still, you’ve got to appreciate the sheer ballsiness Jeffco is displaying in drafting this bill. Rosier’s basically saying “see what you’ve made me do, Golden?” in attempting to push this project at the state level. Indeed, the county has shown that it wants this project completed no matter what the cost. The commissioners — all Republicans, mind you — will use big government to trample small communities if they have to.

Jeffco’s unprecedented aggression in pushing the Beltway’s completion should be a major cause of concern for Golden officials. By opposing the project at every step of the process, Golden may be left having no say if and when the Beltway does come to fruition.

No Means No” is a great strategy for opposition, but it’s downright terrible for negotiation. When Jeffco finds a way to get its Parkway completed without any support from Golden, it’s pretty safe to say that Golden’s not going to get anything that it wants out of the deal.

If Jeffco continues to act so brashly, the question for Golden administrators needs to go from “How can we stop this?” to “What’s the best we can get out of this?”

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. At the very least, Golden could tie this up in court for years were it to go through, and give state government (and Jeffco) a huge black eye with the public in the process.

    Passing this means that Boulder could see a massive expansion of US-36 against its wishes, that the I-70 communities could see expansion that destroys historic sections of their towns…

    Note to the state: don’t go there.  The whole beltway concept is flawed on the west side already – it’s not freeway, starting at the end of the NW Parkway near the old StorageTek complex.

  2. BoulderPatentGuy says:

    The biggest question for me is how much Plutonium dust will be released due to this project.  People have no clue how much radioactive material was released over the time that Rocky Flats was open.  If they did, you’d see 5-10 MILES of open space S & E of the current Rocky Flats boundary.

    And that’s no joke.  The only reason landowners lost their 2008 appeal in Federal Court is because the court said there was “no proof” of any health hazards.  The case is up for certiorari @ the SC.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rockwell lose here.  The facts are not in their favor and the SC may determine that the law isn’t, either.

    Shane

    • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

      Excuse me if I’m mistaken, but wouldn’t that make “open space” out of a big chunk of Westminster and Arvada?

      • BoulderPatentGuy says:

        That’s how bad it is.  When soil tests were done in the 1970s, the results showed elevated levels of radioactive materials 1000x what the EPA said was OK.  So, the EPA changed the standards so that the results were in line with the standards.  True story.  

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      but widening 93 between Boulder and Golden is long overdue.

      It needs to be four lanes all the way.

      • Pam Bennett says:

        When the cities along 93 started to expand out there no one bothered to ask why there was a dirth of trees. And for that matter grass. Also, why the name Rocky Flats.

        It does not take too many days of 120+mph winds to finish off those questions.

        The truck and tourist traffic has to endure some nasty weather along that route.

        I voted against the parkway/interstate every time it came up. There is no “good” route for that leg, unless doing Ward Rd. There you end up with some condemnation, but it leaves the mess of going through Golden behind.

        • I haven’t driven CO-93 in the worst weather, but I did catch it one night when it was pretty bad.  Was driving behind a semi in a near-whiteout; he was doing about 15mph going south from CO-128, and I was thinking “I don’t want to wait for him”.  Then a (light for that area) gust of wind came by and all of a sudden he was on half of his wheels ready to tip over into the other lane.  The question in my head became “do I want to try passing him and get landed on, or do I want to stay behind him and possibly get stuck when he tips over?”

          I can’t imagine 4 lanes of increased truck traffic along that route.  Shudder.

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            and one whale of a lot of traffic flies through Wyoming everyday even in the worst of weather.

            • It was about the wind – the truck caught a gust square in the side.

              Regarding Wyoming traffic… First, I-80 closes somewhat frequently in bad weather in the winter.  Second, none of Wyoming’s roads are north-south and directly up against the mountains where gusty winds hit trucks crossways.

              93′s major bottlenecks are at the ends of the road more than elsewhere, and I don’t think you’ll be convincing either Golden or Boulder to widen them any time soon.

              • Gilpin Guy says:

                Tuesday

                I’m not arguing there those wind turbines experiments shouldn’t be there but I think you overstate the problem.  There are probably at least a hundred days a year when it doesn’t blow 80 MPH on the flats.

                You’re probably right about nobody wanting to widen 93 but it still sucks as a clogged and congested road.  I have to wait minutes during the winter to get a break in the traffic to head up Golden Gate Canyon and you know what?  It’s going to get worse.  Building a connecting 470 loop north isn’t going to solve this traffic problem.

                • If you can legally force a lane widening through Golden, you can force one through Boulder, or Idaho Springs.  Once you’re there, it’s not far to overriding home rule whenever the state deems it useful.

                  There’s just too much potential for a cascading opposition here, I think.

                  PS – I agree with you on GGC Road – for the past couple of years it’s been atrocious, and I’ve never really understood why it got worse when it did.  The traffic increase post-dated the completion of the NW Parkway by a number of years.  All I can think is that the number of jobs in Interlocken has gone up dramatically and many of these people are living in Ken Caryl, Highlands Ranch, and other developments along the SW side of the city.

  3. MADCO says:

    but you guys are dreaming.

    Rocky Flats ain’t goin to lose no lawsuit.

    93 ain’t agonna get any bigger for some time yet.

    And a Jeffco Hwy? Sure. ANd the Cubs will be beating the Astros in the playoffs  the next three years in a row.

    Uh-huh.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Boulder/Golden is absolutely clogged during the weekends.  Boulderites stream down 93 for their skiing and hiking fixes like lemmings going over the cliff.  Residents in Broomfield and Arvada also take this “back road” to get out of town.  It is also used by commuters to reach 6th Avenue, 58 and C-470.  Forget the beltway.  Fix 93 so it can handle the traffic.

  4. Craig says:

    Golden has always had its head in the sand just like Dick Lamm did 40 years ago.  Even though Dick Lamm delayed the start, which Golden has done as well, he didn’t delay the growth which mandated the road.  Golden won’t stop this beltway anyway.

    As for Jeffco, well, you guys don’t really know what’s happening.  Except for the two legislators who actually represent Golden, I would expect all of our legislators to support this.  Arvada and Westminster already support it.

    Please quit spreading the falsehood that this goes over old Rocky Flats ground.  It goes just to the east and south of the old Rocky Flats plant.  See map here: http://www.jppha.org/uploads/J…  

    Golden has always felt that it isn’t or shouldn’t be part of the metro area, that it is unique.  Well, I’m here to tell you that Littleton used to feel the same way.

    The reality is that a major road already goes through Golden.  Actually two of them.  And they haven’t ruined Golden.  Frankly, they make Golden a very reachable place.  I know.  That’s why I put my office right here in downtown Golden.

    The reality is that there are three huge employers right here in Golden: The County, the School of Mines and Coors.  The traffic in this town sucks.  People even here aren’t going to stand for this forever.  

    The deal offered Golden with millions of intersection improvements and other improvements to reduce impact on Golden were enough.  The road is going to go forward.  Let’s do it now, when prices are down and the economy needs the jobs.

    The reality is that with the exception of Beverly Heights, what borders this highway is either compatible with a highway or was put in by Golden long after it knew the freeway was coming through.  The highway is already four lanes through almost all of town and the right-of-way is already wide enough for six lanes.  On the South end the highway basically passes the Jeffco Government Center, a commercial area, State open space, a City golf course, Beverly Heights more open space and the School of MInes.  In the north end it does pass new subdivisions, but they were all developed long after everyone was aware that the beltway would be going through.  Frankly, those folks have no right to complain.  It’s like moving near an airport and then complaining about the noise.

    Golden needs to take advantage of what it can now, because if it doesn’t, I suspect it will get a much worse deal in the future.

    Oh, did I mention that the new west light-rail corridor ends right at the end of c-470 and where the new Jefferson Parkway will end.  This will only increase the usage of the existing roads through Golden.  If traffic is bad now, I’m guessing it will get a whole lot worse when areas to the north and west start dumping into that station with cars.

    Golden, as my mother used to say, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Give it up, get the best deal you can and get your heads out of the 1880′s when Golden really was a separate town.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      I was a wee shaver then but Lakewood was still unincorporated and there was a lot of empty space between Wadsworth and Lookout Mountain so you could probably say “get your heads out of the 1950′s”.

      Liked your analysis but it will be sticky wickets getting it done.

    • Have you driven the road that Jeffco is calling the Jefferson County Parkway?  It’s a 45pmh road with street level intersections going through what will soon become housing developments and businesses.  It dead-ends at Indiana St. (currently with no stoplight, and future development intersecting with yet another housing development).

      In other words, whatever JeffCo wants to call it, it’s not designed to be part of a beltway system – it’s designed to be a real estate developer’s dream of increased traffic flow a la Interlocken.

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