Boulder hunts for partners to help pay for $41M in transportation projects

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Photo by Cris Ovalle on Unsplash

The city is pursuing $16.61 million in state and federal funding for more than $41 million worth of transportation projects in Boulder, including upgrades to the Table Mesa Park-and-Ride, expanded bus service and two pedestrian underpasses at 30th and Colorado.

The city itself will have to kick in $25 million or more for the seven projects and is hoping for some contributions from CU, RTD or other partners.

“We could use all of this and more,” said Kathleen Bracke, GO Boulder manager, of the money the city is seeking.

Six of the projects are being submitted to the Denver Regional Council of Governments for its 2020-2023 Transportation Improvement Plan after Boulder’s city council unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed the list Tuesday night.

“I really do like all of these,” councilman Sam Weaver said. “I hope we get them all.”

Boulder has been participating in TIP since the ’90s, and it has helped fund things like the 28th Street multi-use path. The city received $16 million in the last round of funding (2016-2021), out of a total $45 million available for DRCOG.

In order to qualify for the funding, local governments must provide at least 20 percent matching funds. In most cases, Boulder has offered to pony up more.

Here’s a list of the TIP projects for which Boulder is requesting DRCOG funding:

30th Street Improvements (Arapahoe to Boulder Creek)

Cost: $4.2M

TIP request: $2.96 (70%)

Local match: $1.24 (30%)

A request to CU for matching funds has been made. City dollars will come from the transportation fund and, for improvements near Scott Carpenter Park, the parks and recreation fund.

Arapahoe Ave. bridge replacement at Boulder Creek

Cost: $5.5M

TIP request: $3.85M (70%)

Local match: $1.65M (30%)

City dollars will come from the transportation fund. A request was made for matching funds from CDOT but it was denied.

Arapahoe transit stop and multi-use path improvements (38th St to Cherryvale)

Cost: $1.9M

TIP request: $760K (40%)

Local match: $1.14M (60%)

City dollars will come from the transportation fund. A request was made to CDOT for matching funds, but they were unable to match.

Downtown Boulder station improvements

Cost: $925K

TIP request: $370K (40%)

Local match: $555K (60%)

City dollars will come from the transportation fund. Boulder has requested matching funds from RTD. 

Table Mesa Park-N-Ride multi-use path improvements

Cost: $3.8M

TIP request: $1.52M (40%)

Local match: $2.28M (60%)

City money will come from transportation fund; matching funds requested from RTD.

HOP expansion

Cost: $4.31M annually for three years

TIP request: $2.4M ($800K/yr for first three yrs)

Local match: $10.5M ($3.51M annually for three years)

Boulder is seeking cost-sharing partnerships with RTD and others.

The $2.4 million in outside funds, if awarded, would pay for the entire expansion; the city’s $3.51 million annual “match” is what it is already spending on HOP. The hope for HOP is to create a direct line out east to Flatiron Business Park on 55th Street near Arapahoe Avenue.

The goal, Bracke said, is to eventually separate the HOP into segments rather than the loop it runs now (between  Twenty Ninth Street Mall, University of Colorado, University Hill and downtown). One of the segments would be a “straight shot” from downtown to east Boulder, Bracke said. Boulder first flirted with the idea of segmented HOP routes last year, but abandoned the plan due to lack of funding and negative community feedback.

Council woman Cindy Carlisle asked if there were enough riders to support an eastern  route, to which Mayor Suzanne Jones replied, “If you build it, they will come.”

Some 35,000 jobs are within a half-mile of east Arapahoe, according to city data — 40 percent of all Boulder’s jobs. And yet bus service to the area is infrequent and requires multiple stops and a changeover, councilman Weaver noted.

I think if there was an alternative,” he said, “people would take it.”

The city won’t know how much money DRCOG is awarding until the summer, said Senior Transportation Planner Noreen Walsh. This round, $15 million has been made available for Boulder County as a whole. Boulder’s asks total $11.86 million.

“These will be competing with other projects around the county,” said council member Aaron Brockett, “and the pot is not near big enough to fund all of them.” 

City needs land to build 30th/Colorado underpass

Boulder wants to make the busy intersection at 30th and Colorado safer for cyclists and pedestrians, but first it needs to secure property (as well as an extra $3.9 million in local funds). The land purchases must be in place by July 1 in order to get the state’s OK — and the $4.75 million in federal money to finish the job.

The $4.75 million was approved in the last TIP funding round by DRCOG. The city has so far come up with $3.45 million, with CU contributing another $400,0000. Boulder is “in conversation with CU to develop a cost-share approach to cover the remaining local match amount to complete the overall project,” which will cost $12.5 million in total.

An original estimate was $8 million, when the plan was for one underpass running diagonally under both streets. That morphed into a dual-underpass design — one under 30th and another under Colorado — to accommodate more people. More than 2,100 pedestrians and cyclists use it on a typical day, according to city staff.

Surrounding land is needed to build the underpasses. Staff is currently negotiating with property owners and said the city might explore the use of eminent domain sometime in the spring.

“The City has been working collaboratively with property owners to obtain necessary property interests for the project and anticipates cooperation,” a memo to council reads. “However, not having eminent domain authority as a potential last resort could jeopardize the $4.75 million in federal funds needed to complete this important multi-modal safety and connectivity project.”

The underpass is the first big project in a larger realignment of 30th and Colorado. In addition to safety (the corridor has a high rate of collisions), changes are needed to improve drainage.

Council will ultimately decide whether or not to authorize staff to buy the land, or give them the authority to take it via eminent domain if negotiations aren’t successful. A public hearing is scheduled for March 5.

Author’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from Tuesday’s city council meeting. To view the tweet-thread from this portion of the meeting, click here.

Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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