Chuck Wibby For the Camera
Chuck Wibby For the Camera

The Camera has been full of stories lately about the Boulder County Transportation Department rolling out their latest update to the county's Transportation Master Plan. Sadly this version of the TMP is just another example of the old adage that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The result of this plan will be more of the same. More wasted spending. More crumbling roads. More calls for increased taxes.

Take, for example, the meeting planned for tonight in Niwot, where the Department will present its plans for "the reconstruction and widening of North 95th Street." This project's main goal is to widen two miles of 95th Street from Niwot Road to Plateau Road. The county is sparing no expense in spite of the fact that the county itself rated this section of road "fair" in their 2018 road condition survey. Roads generally need to be in total disrepair, what the county terms "poor," before you would even consider the expense of a complete reconstruction.

So if you travel 95th Street, like I do, you may ask yourself why is the County spending so much of its scarce transportation dollars to widen this section of 95th Street? Well it turns out that this section of 95th is rated "LTS4" — high traffic stress for cyclists — on the county's Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress map (yes, there really is such a map). Actually it turns out that 11 of the 14 county multimodal road projects where data is available are all rated "LTS4." In fact, if you overlay the Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress map with the TMP update's proposed multimodal road projects you will see few differences. Maybe those goofy people who for five years have been fighting the county to get subdivision roads paved should try harder to get their roads rated LTS4.

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On top of this glaring bias, the county virtually ignored what the public told them they disliked about our transportation system. In the county's 2018 transportation survey fully 45% of the respondents rated congestion at the lowest level, poor. This was the highest poor rating for any category by a wide margin. The next two categories with the highest percentage of poor ratings — stops (23%) and signal timing (22%) — also contribute to the frustration many of us feel about simply getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

But have no fear. The TMP has a section to strategize what we should do about congestion in "Key Regional Transportation Corridors" like the parking lot formerly known as Arapahoe Avenue/Colo. 7. The county's recommended solution? "Do not widen East-West corridors" except for wider shoulders (i.e., bike lanes), and it says we need to "prioritize moving people, not cars." As "Saturday Night Live" character Tommy Flanagan, the Pathological Liar, used to say, "Yeah! That's the ticket!"

Which brings up the final strategy in the TMP, funding. Seemingly every single discussion about transportation includes a lamentation about the lack of available tax dollars to fix our "crumbling" system. Our experts point to the fact that the federal gas tax has not been hiked since 1993, and Colorado's state gas tax has remained stagnant since 1992. They just can't seem to figure out why those knucklehead taxpayers won't do the right thing? After all, you should pay for what you use. Well, it is probably no coincidence that in 1991 the U.S. Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. From that point forward we went from gas taxes paying for new roads and the upkeep of existing ones to the system we have now, where these tax dollars pay for anything remotely related to "transportation." A local example being that over one hundred miles of recreational hiking trails are included in the county's transportation master plan.

The bottom line is that people are smarter than what the experts think when it comes to approving more tax dollars for our "crumbling" roads. If we want to move forward and get things done for a change, the first step might be to initiate an honest discussion about the fact that nearly all of the funding for transportation now comes from taxes directly related to the use of cars but that the money raised is seemingly prioritized for every purpose except making it more convenient to use those same cars.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy biking as much as the next person. But it is also important to consider that those driving on 95th are workers, soccer moms, students and others who are not able to conduct their daily travels on a bicycle. And given the increased number of cyclists using 95th on Sunday morning, the probability is high that many more are recreational cyclists, not people heading to work or transporting their children.

Email: cxwibby1@....