With the finish line in sight for C-470 expansion discussions, the Highlands Ranch Metro District Board of Directors offered up some direction on how to pay for the project.
The district determined with a 4-3 vote on Jan. 29 that it would support tolling of the planned additional lanes in both directions between I-25 and Kipling, while keeping the existing lanes free for drivers. The Metro District is one of 19 public and private entities that make up the C-470 Corridor Coalition.
After much research and public polling for the past seven months, the option, also known as “Option A,” has been determined by many to be the most popular of the three the coalition has presented. Other options include tolling all the lanes and raising property and/or sales taxes.
The coalition is scheduled to vote Feb. 7 on whether to narrow its focus to only “Option A” as it continues its study into the summer months.
“Basically I need to know if the board approves of me voting ‘yeah,’ on ‘Option A,’ ” said Metro District Board Member Allen Dreher, who represents the district on the coalition.
The board’s discussion was quick but not without some difference of opinion.
“When the tolls don’t make the money, then who is left holding the bags for the bonds (that pay for the construction),” asked board member Nancy Smith, who didn’t support the option.
“There is still additional work to be done and there will be a toll lane and rate study,” said Jeff Case, Public Works director for the district. “If conditions change, if assumptions change … then there is room for reconsideration throughout.”
Unsatisfied with the answer, Smith asked about the possibility that the findings come back and say the tolling will pay for construction, but that doesn’t actually happen.
“I’m still not convinced,” she said. “The people that I talk to say they don’t want toll roads and they wouldn’t use them.
“What if they build the toll roads and five years down the road it is obvious people aren’t using it, then what happens, who is left holding those bonds?”
Case reiterated that the topic would be addressed in the next stage of the study.
“This isn’t saying this is the definitive answer,” added board Chairman Rick Owens. “This is just to go forward with the study to see if it is feasible and if they can fund it.”
Dreher, Owens, Kelly O’Sullivan, and Vicky Starkey all voted in favor of pursuing the option, while Smith, Nick Robinson and Carolyn Schierholz did not support it.