BACKGROUND: In 2008, Arvada, Broomfield and Jefferson County form the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA) through an intergovernmental agreement. A Board of Directors comprised of elected officials from the three founders is created to finance and construct an approximate 9 mile stretch of four-lane Tollway, which goes through housing developments in Arvada, and through a portion of the former Rocky Flats plant. The project is delayed numerous times over the next 10 years, but finally begins to move forward in 2018 with the release of a request for quote (RFQ). By this time the three funders have spent over $12 million on the project with no results. In December 2018, three firms are selected as finalists. JPPHA plans to release a request for proposal (RFP) to the three in March 2019, select a finalist by the end of the year, and start construction in 2020. To accomplish this, JPPHA needs a large funding commitment of $7.5 million dollars in 2019 from the three governmental funders ($2.5 million each).
January 2019 The Movement to Stop Jefferson Parkway, a community-based group of concerned citizens, is formed in Arvada in January 2019. Working with other individuals and organizations who are also opposed to the proposed Tollway, the Group begins to discuss their concerns with the Arvada and Broomfield City Councils, and Jefferson County Commissioners. Key reasons to oppose the project include:
· The Tollway poses increased health risk to multiple communities by stirring up plutonium contamination from Rocky Flats.
· The Tollway is a “road to nowhere” that does not complete the beltway, will not improve transportation in the northwest quadrant, and likely increases congestion.
· The real purpose of the Tollway is to increase commercial development, not to improve traffic congestion.
· The governmental entities are using millions of taxpayer dollars to fund JPPHA operations in its twelve year-long attempt to build the Tollway (over $16 million confirmed through 2020).
· The Tollway creates significant increased safety and health threats to multiple neighborhoods.
February 2019 The Federal Aviation Administration sends a letter to JPPHA informing them that land they released to JPPHA in 2015 for use for the Tollway is no longer valid and was re-obligated by the FAA to the Rocky Mountain Airport. This creates a problem for JPPHA with the northern terminus of their planned alignment. No resolution has ever been announced by JPPHA.
March 2019 Within just a few months, the Movement group and its allies succeed in efforts to delay the planned release of JPPHA’s RFP to the three finalists. The Broomfield City Council delays approval of their $2.5 million funding request until they can gather more information on the project—specifically concerns raised about the impact to public safety, including Broomfield residents. The funding request is not formally placed on the March or April agendas by the Council.
April 2019 Despite intense grassroots communication and lobbying organized by the Movement Group, the Arvada City Council approves their $2.5 million budget for JPPHA. Jefferson County approved their $2.5 million request in late 2018.
June 2019 At a key study session on the proposed Tollway, the Broomfield City Council hears from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment about why they do not oppose allowing the Parkway to be built in the former Rocky Flats right of way. The Council also hears from a number of citizens and experts, including those from the Movement Group, who lay out specific concerns to public safety by allowing construction along the proposed alignment. Following the hearing, it is clear the Council is split, which prevents the Council from approving any dollars for JPPHA, continuing to delay the project.
August 2019 Earlier in 2019, Broomfield requested more soil sampling be conducted. Separately, JPPHA agreed to do more soil sampling as a result of increased pressure from Broomfield, Jefferson County, and citizens, including those from the Movement Group. In August, it was announced that a hot particle was found in the proposed right-of-way in former Rocky Flats. The finding of 264 picocuries per gram—the largest plutonium finding ever—creates strong media coverage and additional heightened concern about the safety of constructing the Tollway. This finding continues to support the Movement Group’s efforts to delay funding by the Broomfield City Council and begins to raise additional concerns with Jefferson County Commissioners.
November 2019 Broomfield City Council elects new progressive Council members who campaigned on a public safety platform. Two new Council members who oppose construction of the Parkway are placed on JPPHA’s Board to represent Broomfield. As the year draws to a close, Broomfield never budgets any additional dollars for JPPHA, again causing more delays to the project.
December 2019 One of the 3 bidders withdraws from the process, citing ongoing delays, environmental concerns, lack of commitment from some of the governmental entities, and a new internal analysis that showed the Tollway is not financially viable. This leaves only two bidders left.
December 2019 At an Arvada City Council meeting, members are told by developers that the Tollway will not bring any commercial development along the proposed alignment. In fact, they state that building the project will harm future commercial development as companies want access via free, public roads versus a toll road.
January 2020 The Movement Group discovers a pattern of overly optimistic tollway traffic projections conducted by CDM Smith, who completed the Parkway’s traffic study in April 2018. CDM Smith has a reputation for traffic studies and involvement in a number of failed toll road project across the county, including the Northwest Parkway in Colorado, which went into default a few years after opening in 2005.
February 2020 After a year of lobbying efforts by the Movement Group and its supporters, Broomfield City Council votes unanimously to withdraw from JPPHA and the Tollway project. They have no plans or interest in providing any further funding to the project. This action further delays the project and essentially results in the project being put on hold.
February 2020 Jefferson County informs JPPHA at a County study session on the Tollway that due to ongoing budget constraints, there are no funds for JPPHA and they wish to stop the flow of dollars and pause the project. It is believed the County did not contribute any additional dollars to JPPHA after February or March.
March 2020 The County, State and Country is struck with the COVID 19 pandemic. Among the many impacts of the pandemic are changes to work & life, which reduce transportation and traffic. In addition, the pandemic further negatively impacts city and state budgets. The Tollway project is also further delayed.
November 2020 Jefferson County elects two new Commissioners who are supported by the Movement Group. Tollway supporter Commissioner Libby Szabo is defeated and will be replaced on the JPPHA Board in January.
January 2021 A news article in Westword reveals that Broomfield has received terms and conditions for withdrawing from JPPHA that includes “millions” of dollars, a guarantee to the right of way to allow construction through Broomfield, and a “statement of neutrality” which has been perceived as a gag order by Broomfield to prevent its elected officials from airing concerns about the Tollway. Broomfield responded to JPPHA in late 2020 by indicating the contract does not require them to reserve the right-of-way, and that it does not owe any further participation fees as those funds were never approved by City Council.
January 2021 In an email response to questions from The Movement Group, current JPPHA chair and Arvada City Councilmember David Jones said: “At this point, so many things have changed over the last year that I would expect new traffic studies, etc. In all honesty, I don’t see a clear path forward for a few years. More to come for sure but I am pretty sure that things will be very quiet at least for 2021 as we work with Broomfield and Jefferson County on any next steps.”
Current Status/Outlook: Two years since its formation in January 2019, The Movement to Stop Jefferson Parkway has made significant progress in its mission and plans to continue its efforts to put a final halt to the Parkway in 2021. Construction was projected to start in 2020, but as we enter 2021, the project is at least two years behind schedule and a path forward for the project has not been made clear or communicated.
· The JPPHA Board has not met since December 2019.
· One of the three finalists for constructing the project has withdrawn from the process.
· The JPPHA Board Chair has indicated things will likely be quiet on the project through at least 2021 and perhaps beyond.
· Jefferson County has long-term budgetary challenges and has told JPPHA they do not want to contribute more dollars to the project.
· A minimal budget of about $80,000 has been recommended for JPPHA for 2021, but has not been approved by the Board. Arvada may be the only governmental entity funding JPPHA for 2021.
· The impact to traffic from COVID 19, especially work commutes, will to some extent be permanent, further bringing the viability of the project into question.
· Plans for the northern terminus of the Parkway have not been resolved with the FAA.
· Most importantly, Broomfield has withdrawn from the project. Terms and conditions for Broomfield’s withdrawal from JPPHA are currently in negotiation, but may drag on for some time, including the possibility of legal action. Ultimately, if JPPHA cannot retain the right of way through Broomfield which includes the northern portion of the alignment and planned northern terminus, the project is dead.
The Movement To Stop Jefferson Parkway’s primary efforts for 2021 include:
· monitor negotiations between JPPHA and Broomfield; work to ensure Broomfield does not agree to reserve the right-of-way through its county.
· continue discussions with Jefferson County Commissioners regarding their plans for the Parkway; work to affect the County’s withdrawal from the project. This is a long form text area designed for your content that you can fill up with as many words as your heart desires. You can write articles, long mission statements, company policies, executive profiles, company awards/distinctions, office locations, shareholder reports, whitepapers, media mentions and other pieces of content that don’t fit into a shorter, more succinct space.
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