How ballot measures might affect commuters

County has selected 17 roads to widen, and vote could speed timetable

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Douglas County has selected 17 roads to widen by 2030 and if approved, a new November ballot measure could speed up that timeline.

The list of recommended roads to widen is part of the county's 2040 transportation master plan, which is broken down into 2020, 2030 and 2040 plans. If approved, the ballot measure would reallocate funding, allowing the county to begin work on the lists sooner, Commissioner Lora Thomas said.

“People are already sitting in traffic,” she said. “I don't see any point in waiting until things are really bad and then trying to do something about it.”

The ballot measure, which was approved by county commissioners Sept. 3, will ask voters to move an 0.18% portion of the 1% sales tax from the justice center to transportation. Sales tax is divided among roads, the justice center and open space: Roads currently receive 0.40%, the justice center 0.43% and open space 0.17%.

How list was created

In order to create the list of priority road projects, county staff first gathered data on different sections of the county, including numbers of households, numbers of workplaces, numbers of lanes and speed limits, said Katherine Haire, principal traffic engineer.

Then, they input the information into an algorithm developed by the Denver Regional Coalition of Governments, or DRCOG, which provides some roads funding to the county.

This algorithm predicts how much traffic will be in each section of the roads in the short term, medium term and long term. In Douglas County, these predictions are for 2020, 2030 and 2040.

Next, the county looks at the traffic thresholds that they aim to maintain in both rural and urban areas. By looking at the algorithm projections and comparing those to the traffic thresholds, they determine which roads will need to be improved to maintain the desired amount of traffic, Haire said.

“It's based on a lot of input,” said Janet Herman, director of public works engineering. “We're very comfortable with what the information has spit out for us.”

Once the list was created, it was brought to different jurisdictions throughout the county to ensure it coincides with their plans, Herman said.

While most road projects are widening, some are marked as “safety improvements” which include added turning lanes, shoulders or traffic lights, Haire said. Other projects aim to add entirely new roads.

Fifteen additional road sections have been selected to be widened in the 2040 plan.

Who else funds improvements?

While projects on roads entirely run by Douglas County, such as Hess Road, will be fully funded by the county, roads that also go through other jurisdictions will be split in funding.

On some projects, such as the widening of County Line Road from Broadway to University Boulevard, the county will pay 25% or less of the cost.

The most costly projects on the 2030 list both relate to interstate interchanges. A new interchange on I-25 at Crystal Valley Parkway will be built for $60 million, according to the document. The county will pay 10% of this cost.

The Lincoln Avenue interchange on I-25 will be improved for $80 million. The county will pay 25% of the cost.

While the specific partners for each interchange project have not been solidified, both will have some combination of support from local, state, federal and private entities, Herman said.

Though all projects beginning in 2021 are slated to be mostly complete by 2030, the list is not currently in any priority order, Herman said.

“If we get a partner on some of these projects,” she said, “that might actually push it up to the top of the list just because we have partnering money to be able to get the project done … it all really kind of depends on the funding.”

Projects relating to safety are also likely to be moved to the top of the list, she said.

“We try to spread the wealth too. It's not fair just to improve one area of the county,” Herman said, “so we make sure we look everywhere to make sure the projects are spread around.”

The total cost of the projects slated to be completed in 2030 is $760 million, with Douglas County projected to pay $235 million. The ballot measure would bring in $220 million in the next 16 years, Thomas said.

The remainder of the funding required by Douglas County would come from the other 0.4% sales tax already earmarked for roads, Herman said.

The transportation plan will be considered a draft until it goes before the planning commission on Oct. 21.

The entire plan is available on the county website at douglas.co.us by clicking "About Us" then "Breaking News" and looking for "County Commissioners advance Transportation Funding Question to November 2019 ballot."

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