Move Colorado Policy Principle #1: Colorado’s state and local transportation system must be adequately funded.
- Do you believe the current transportation system is adequately funded?
No. Colorado’s transportation system is not adequately funded and hasn’t been for decades. During my tenure as CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, I worked with multiple Gubernatorial administrations, legislative leaders, and the transportation community to advocate for greater investment in our transportation system.
That said, with passage of the 2021 RISE Denver GO Bond package, which includes $63.3 million for transportation projects in Denver, and Senate Bill 21-260, which creates new state and local sources of dedicated funding and new state enterprises, we’re in a better position on transportation funding than we have been in many years. I will continue to advocate for more state and local investment and, most importantly, will seek out and maximize every available federal dollar for Denver’s benefit.
I think it is important to note here that transportation infrastructure maintenance – e.g. plowing, repaving and striping streets, maintaining signage and signals, curb and gutter repair – are seldom included in new funding packages. As such, it is essential that a mayor understands both the importance of this work to a functioning and safe transportation system and the role of general fund obligations and budgets. Having worked as a policy analyst to all 13 members of City Council and served as Chief of Staff to then-Mayor Hickenlooper, I understand the city’s budget process. I have helped build and manage the city’s budget and will be ready to effectively do so starting Day 1, if elected. (And, as an aside, having spent many hours behind the wheel of snowplow at the old Stapleton Airport, I know first-hand the value of this work and the professionals who do it!)
- What are your priorities within transportation during the next 4 years?
Simply put, my transportation priority will be supporting Denverites to move more efficiently, safely, and cleanly. My first term (next 4 years) transportation priorities include:
- Ensuring successful implementation and execution of projects funded by the RISE GO Bond approved in 2021 and maximizing federal funding. Inflation, supply chain interruptions and labor shortages are very real threats to transportation construction. We need an experienced team to manage and deliver the RISE Denver Bond projects on time and on budget to keep faith with voters that we’re able to deliver on promises made. My executive experience will be important here. Additionally, the federal government has made once-in-a-generation investments in infrastructure through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Working with our congressional delegation – including my former colleagues, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper – I will do everything I can to maximize those federal funds for Denver’s benefit.
- Improving traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, through Vision Zero strategic reset. Vision Zero, Denver’s commitment to eliminate traffic facilities and serious bodily injuries by 2030, is the right goal, but we are moving in the wrong direction. I’m suggesting we pause and provide for a reset to evaluate the barriers to our success and contrast that with successes of other communities. After a timely and honest evaluation of local efforts to date, coupled with an assessment of what other communities are doing more effectively, we will restart the work, doubling down on what’s effective and taking fresh approaches in areas where we are struggling. As a cyclist who has commuted by bicycle in Denver for 30 years, I feel a real sense of urgency to get this done quickly and right.
- Supporting DEN. Denver International Airport, the 3rd busiest airport in the world, is a major driver of economic activity for Denver, Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain West. Major renovation projects – including the Great Hall Project and gate expansions – have been underway for the last five years and will continue over the next four years (and beyond!). The Mayor has an important role to play in hiring the director at DEN, supporting the DEN team and providing for some accountability to ensure that infrastructure improvements are delivered effectively and efficiently. As we look to the future, DEN will play an increasingly important role as a hub for freight and commerce and an area of increasing residential growth. I understand the potential of the aerotropolis concept and the importance of “getting this right” for our economy and quality of life.
- Strengthening RTD with a focus on sustainability. People across the metro region have invested billions into this regional system. But stagnant ridership, increasing costs, staff shortages and debt obligations are making it difficult to maximize the return on taxpayer investments. Denver needs to play an active role in helping to address the challenges and support RTD with a path forward to a sustainable future. I’m encouraged by the results of their most recent Fare Study and excited about some of the pilot approaches to removing barriers for riders. Throughout my career – in both the public and private sectors – I have built partnerships and worked effectively with leaders across the Denver- metro region. I understand the value and importance of regional cooperation and, more importantly, I have a track record of success in making it happen.
- What is your approach to using innovative financing tools for our transportation system?
Many of Denver’s landmark transportation infrastructure projects—Union Station, DEN, FasTracks—would not have been possible without innovative financing and public-private partnerships. Addressing our future transportation challenges and restoring the promise of Denver requires having every type of investment tool available and the skill to use these tools. As Mayor, I will put a team in place with the expertise and the wisdom to select – and manage – the best funding and financing option for each major project.
Move Colorado Policy Principle #2: Colorado’s transportation system is – and should be – all modes working together.
- How do you define a balanced transportation system?
Recognizing that our diverse population has differing transportation needs, I share your support for a multi- modal transportation system and believe we need to invest in an “all of the above” strategy, including roads and bridges, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian-friendly options. My priority will be ensuring safety and accessibility for all modes and all users. I am particularly interested in working with residents to develop specific approaches that reduce the percentage of single-occupancy vehicles on our roads.
- What elements of the transportation system will be your top priority in the next 4 years?
For several reasons – accommodating population growth, addressing climate change, connecting the region, reducing traffic injuries and fatalities, and supporting the sustainability of RTD, to name just a few – I think the element of the system that needs our most urgent attention is transit, and particularly clean transit. I would do so by:
- Advancing localized strategies for first and last mile connections. We learned in 2008 when I oversaw the City’s effort to host the DNC that we can effectively create first and last mile connections to help people easily and efficiently use transit to navigate Denver. (And that was long before the era of scooters and e-bikes.) The issue today is not a lack of options but the need to apply the right mobility solution – whether that be a bike library or a micro transit stop – in the right place. I believe our best experts in this work are our residents. My administration would seek input from neighborhood groups on what they think will work to build these connections and bring these ideas to RTD, as well as to private operators.
- Prioritizing Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Projects. A successful transit system necessarily requires strong rider demand. Done right, TOD projects hold the promise of improving access to transit while addressing housing capacity and affordability. When high density housing is strategically built on high-frequency bus and transit lines, it promotes efficient, cleaner transportation use and reduces transportation costs for residents and congestion for all travelers, making Denver a cleaner and more affordable place to live. I’ll promote TOD projects by providing incentives to developers for taking on these projects and using City dollars to acquire land on transit corridors or future bus rapid transit corridors, prior to public transit investment to secure affordable housing development ahead of the private market.
- Accelerating Colfax Bus Rapid Transit and Improving Congestion, Safety and Livability Along Denver’s Busiest Roads. Many of Denver’s most important travel corridors such as Colorado Blvd, Colfax Ave and Federal Blvd are the most difficult to travel, by any mode. They are congested for much of the day, unsafe in many places for pedestrians and cyclists, and a source of noise and pollution for nearby residents. Much work has been to study these corridors—and to allocate funding for improvements— but progress has been slow. As Mayor, I will bring new energy, talent and focus to these routes, speeding up long-delayed projects like Colfax BRT and delivering immediate and strategic safety improvements. I have endorsed the VAMOS platform, which includes recommendations to implement a series of relatively low-cost changes like cross walks and pedestrian signals on our busiest corridors that I believe could make a huge difference for pedestrian and cyclist safety.
- What elements of our transportation system will be a top priority in the long term?
- Implementing Bus Rapid Transit Across Denver. I believe Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) holds the promise of delivering more reliable, faster, and higher capacity transportation than a conventional bus system, oftentimes without the need for new travel lanes. In January 2020, RTD released the Regional BRT Network Feasibility Study that identified the top corridors in the metro area for BRT. There is a lot of good work in that study to use as a foundation for action and initial funding already identified by CDOT and DRCOG. As Mayor, I’ll task the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) with developing a 10-year action plan for funding and delivering BRT for Denver. This plan needs to set clear priorities so we can pursue every dollar of federal grant funding and move from BRT studying to action.
- Reimagining the Future of Burnham Yard. Burnham Yard was one of the most significant railyards in Denver for 150 years, before Union Pacific closed the site in 2016. Located in a primarily industrial part of Denver near the South Platte River and I-25, there is tremendous opportunity to redevelop this into an exciting TOD, potentially including passenger rail along with commercial and residential development. My administration will play a leadership role and partner with CDOT (the property owner), Historic Denver (who completed an historic analysis of the site in 2017), neighborhood leaders and residents, developers, and transportation stakeholders to determine how we can redevelop this site something innovative and transformative for Denver.
- Ensuring the Safety of Heavy Rail through Denver. After the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio in February, heavy rail safety has been a top-of-mind issue. We have a significant volume of heavy rail running through central Denver today and the volume is projected to increase in coming years. We’ve also had our share of safety incidents – 12 railroad related safety incidents in the last five years, ranking Denver 4th among similarly sized cities. We need to focus on safety measures to mitigate risks and protect neighborhoods from potentially devastating accidents.
Move Colorado Policy Principle #3: Colorado’s transportation system must embrace sustainability, environmental stewardship, and resilience.
- As Mayor of Denver how will you balance sustainability, environmental stewardship, and system resiliency while ensuring economic productivity through the movement of goods and services?
Move Colorado is right to ask this question and acknowledge the challenge of this work. There is no better example where each of these issues come together than DEN. Not only is it the third busiest airport in the world for passenger travel, it is a major hub for goods and services coming to and exiting the region. We’re lucky that Mayor Pena had the foresight to build the airport in a location that provides sufficient land to support the confluence of air, rail, and trucking activity. At the same time, we must recognize the significant contributions that transportation-related emissions make to our environment and continue to move toward more efficient and cleaner transportation infrastructure. One immediate step I would take as Mayor is to identify a dedicated lead at the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) committed to working on freight and commercial transportation issues specifically – including issues of economic development, safety, and climate impact. I would see that content area expert having important work to do in coordination with the Denver Office of Economic Development & Opportunity and the Office on Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency to ensure coordinated strategies and approaches.
Move Colorado Policy Principle #4: Technology is rapidly advancing and will be a key driver in the future of Colorado’s transportation system.
- What is your vision for how technology can improve our transportation needs?
There are significant opportunities for technology to improve our transportation system in ways both large and small. On a smaller scale, we are already seeing the benefits of more sophisticated signal timing and prioritization for emergency vehicles and plows towards reducing congestion, improving safety, and supporting improved mobility around the city. On a bigger scale, “smart city” technology will enable us to take huge leaps forward in safer, cleaner transportation. For example, wireless communications between vehicles and infrastructure will help to reduce accidents, in turn reducing congestion and improving air quality. At the same time, we are likely to see huge technological advances in batteries that will make it possible to electrify not just our passenger fleet, but also heavy-duty trucks and equipment. I’m excited to both promote and adopt these transportation technologies in Denver and to nurture the continued growth and success of the technology sector in Denver, supporting our entrepreneurs and innovators to develop these solutions right here in our community.