Bill 15-081 was introduced into the current session of the Colorado Senate last week. It sought to expand the definition of suitable projects for GOCO (Greater Outdoors Colorado) funding to include the construction of bicycle trails and shoulders. Unfortunately passage of the bill would have violated the State Constitution and it was therefore killed in committee. (The permitted uses of GOCO funding were approved as a constitutional change by Colorado voters in 1992 and therefore cannot be altered without further voter approval).
Likewise, Jefferson County Open Space is funded by a sales tax approved by voter referendum back in 1972. This also specifies exactly how the revenue generated by the sales tax can be spent. Unfortunately, this also excludes most types of hard bike trails.
As we are all well aware, the number of road cyclists in our State, both residents and visitors, has increased tremendously in the last ten years. One has only to look at the strava.com “heat” maps to see the extent of riding in Jefferson County alone. Bike Jeffco’s own count logged almost 1000 riders in Deer Creek Canyon in 12 hours on a Saturday in June 2013.
Despite the growth in ridership, we still have no dedicated regular source of funding for bicycle related projects. The one time Federal Stimulus package of 2009 provided $7M to repair the C-470 bikeway. Shoulders are typically only added to major highway reconstruction projects if the user lobbying is loud enough. The four yearly Federal Transportation Improvement Program (‘TIP’) funding is typically oversubscribed by a factor of three and rarely benefits our area due to our relatively low population density.
As a result, urgent projects such as adding shoulders to unsafe roads such as 32nd Ave west of I-70 and 100th Ave. in Westminster remain on the shelf. At the current rate of funding, the Clear Creek Canyon trail west of Golden may be complete in the next 20-30 years.
On a more positive note, the El Rancho to Genesee bicycle link may receive its final grant to make construction possible this year – only TEN years after the initial proposal by Bike Jeffco.
Clearly, there must be a better way of funding this work. Colorado prides itself on being an ‘outdoor’ State yet our sport, unlike others such as hiking and mtn bike riding, is severely underfunded.
At next Tuesday’s meeting, we’ll discuss what might be done to change this situation.
Related to this, we’ll also talk about how we might better work with our elected representatives to achieve our goals.
The meeting will be held Tuesday February 10th 7:00pm – 9:00pm at the Jefferson County Government Center in Golden.
See you there!