Transmitted Electronically Via: email@example.com.
November 17, 2021
Colorado Transportation Commission
Colorado Department of Transportation
2829 W. Howard Place
Denver, Colorado 80204
Dear Colorado Transportation Commissioners,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment on the revised Rules Governing the Statewide Transportation Planning Process and Transportation Planning Regions (Rules) and supplementary documents. In Move Colorado’s original submission, we urged the Transportation Commission (Commission) to amend the rulemaking process to allow for a second round of public review following any amendments made by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in response to the feedback gained through the initial public outreach process. We would like to publicly thank you for extending the comment period on CDOT’s revised draft Rules.
We would also note that in our first-round comments we suggested additional clarity around process and definitions, and attached you will find our original submission as we would seek to reiterate those comments. In particular, we strongly urge CDOT to clarify the interface between the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements and this Rule.
Let me reiterate that Move Colorado supports the overall goal of taking meaningful steps to reduce GHG emissions in Colorado. We acknowledge this work is complex and multi-faceted, and are pleased to see that a GHG Mitigation Advisory Group will be convened. We strongly encourage including technical resource experts from the private sector.
Our comments on the revised Rule include broad questions for your consideration and detailed concerns regarding several sections. In some instances, we also highlight possible unintended consequences. We believe it is important to raise these points with the Commission as you move through this critically important process. The following pages are organized by general topics within the Rules and associated Mitigation Policy Overview document.
Disproportionately Impacted Communities
Move Colorado strongly supports advancing efforts to provide funding toward mitigating the impacts of past transportation projects on Disproportionately Impacted Communities.
In reflecting on the public comments made during Listening Session #10, our concern lies with the reality of trying to measure the reduction of GHGs from implementing transit signal priority improvements, for example, when the impacts to a community from GHGs occur on a regional basis. Placing this requirement to measure and decrease regionally significant GHGs on a single community will lead to unrealistic expectations about how their neighborhoods will improve with regard to regional air quality.
As CDOT appears interested in further investing in multi-modal projects to the benefit of Disproportionately Impacted Communities, we would recommend it occur more directly than through the proposed GHG Rules, similar to the updated 1601 Interchange Approval Process (1601). The updated 1601 process requires a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) assessment and inclusion of TDM elements for all Type 1 and Type 2 interchange proposals. Instituting a requirement for an assessment and inclusion of TDM measures on projects separate from GHG modeling would provide benefits to communities without trying to measure localized GHG emissions. Move Colorado suggests this approach as an alternate method of mitigation measure implementation, which addresses the question, “Should mitigation measures be evaluated based on their estimated GHG reduction, specifically, through a more generalized scoring/point system or some other approach?” in the Mitigation Policy document.
Mitigation Policy Overview Comments
Historically, Colorado’s transportation planning process has been based on safety, system preservation and improvement need. The proposed Rules appear to dramatically alter that process, with unintended consequences possible. Respectfully, we are interested in learning what steps CDOT will take to address the following issues:
- Under the proposed Rules, will projects first run through a GHG reduction model, prior to additional planning? There appears to be incompatibility in the Mitigation Policy document that mentions high-level modeling for project-specific mitigation. We have concerns that high-level modeling will not provide the detail that the Rule needs to show a benefit from the mitigation projects.
- Should a proposed mitigation project improve safety, increase thru-put, or create additional demand, will such projects be dismissed?
- How do the Rules impact the overall safety and functionality of the transportation system? For example, roundabouts are proven to reduce idling and improve operations, which in turn reduces GHG emissions. However, these projects are not considered mitigation because, and this is only implied, people are still in cars. If the goal is to decrease the number of cars on the road, we believe that needs to be stated. Otherwise, the language appears to contradict itself if the intent is to reduce GHGs.
To provide clarity, we believe it would be of benefit to share with interested parties a sample of how a safety or system improvement project would move through the new planning process based on the proposed Rules process. This allows for feedback; and modifications, which ensure Colorado’s approach is truly meeting the intent of the Rules, which is to reduce GHG emissions from transportation.
Regarding mitigation funding, questions exist regarding the source of funds for such efforts. Would the proposed Rules re-allocate funds out of the current/proposed project funding, or via a separate funding source intended for GHG reduction?
Additionally, it is critical to ensure there is alignment regarding the current federal statutory prescribed use of proposed mitigation funds and CDOT’s vision for future use. This may require a review of all proposed sources and possible applications. By way of example, federal Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) funds are noted as a mitigation funding source. As the Commission is aware, the use of these funds is limited by federal law and may not align with proposal mitigation strategies such as transit operations funding to support bus or train operators/drivers on a transit line.
Additional Federal Investments
With the recent passage of the federal infrastructure package, Colorado is poised to receive a sizeable influx of funding that would be of great benefit across our state. As an organization that seeks to advocate for transportation funding, we stand ready to support such efforts. A few additional questions regarding federal funding include:
- Has the Commission, or CDOT, identified how the proposed Rules will intersect with the increased federal funding opportunities, and are we poised to successfully implement program funding effectively to address our system’s needs?
- Are there any actions you are currently considering that will limit the state’s ability to accept or execute against a project plan?
- When will CDOT share this information with stakeholders and other interested parties?
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to provide comments regarding the proposed Rules. I would like to reiterate our support for the overarching goal and our interest in being a full partner to CDOT in your important work. Should you have questions or would like additional details regarding our comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at tamra [dot] ward [at] movecolorado [dot] org.
Tamra J. Ward, Executive Director