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Posted: July 01, 2008

State of the State: July

Transportation, by the numbers, environment, leadership and law

Transportation: I-70 stakeholders reach consensus but not much else without money

In late May a consortium of 27 stakeholders — towns and counties, state and federal transportation officials, environmentalists, truckers and ski area operators — finally reached consensus about the next steps to alleviate the increasing paralysis of Colorado’s most important east-west corridor.

There are no silver bullets and, at least for a good long time, any bullet trains. Like most of the country, Colorado’s highway infrastructure is falling apart with no revenue streams adequate to fix it. Unless that changes, state officials expect to have only $1.8 billion to spend on I-70 west from Denver through the year 2025. Hogging the funds for another decade will be the bill for T-Rex, Denver’s I-25 fix.

Instead, the stakeholders convened last year by Russell George, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, have agreed to a common vision that staggers capacity improvements. Several major improvements can be expected in the next 12 years at key chokepoints between Floyd Hill and the Continental Divide.

Worst is the Floyd Hill-to-Idaho Springs segment. It has twists, a steep hill, twin tunnels, confluence with slow-moving traffic and then more turns. A fix will not be easy, and Clear Creek Commissioner Harry Dale predicts a "fairly intense" two-tier environmental impact statement. In addition to two added lanes, the alignment must also make room for some sort of mass transit, be it a monorail or something else.

Other key projects are where traffic from Winter Park enters I-70 and added lanes in both directions for several miles east of the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel Complex. As well, there could be other projects, including a tunnel through Dowd Butte, west of Vail, and smoothed curves at Wolcott, near Eagle.

Conspicuous is what has been left off the table, at least for now: highway widening through Idaho Springs and at Georgetown Hill. They remain controversial, sure to trigger lawsuits if done clumsily. For that matter, there is no money to move mountains or even to construct double-decked highways such is found in Glenwood Canyon. But they will be bottlenecks.

"Ultimately, you won’t see a whole lot happen unless you see a bunch of new revenue streams identified," Dale says.

But the agreement isn’t all about pavement. Work is advancing concurrently for what is generically called an automated guideway system, or AGS. It could look like a monorail, or it could look like something else. Too little is known to make decisions.

And oh, by the way, there isn’t any money. --By Allen Best

By the numbers

$1.8 billion
How much Colorado has available to spend on Interstate 70 west from Denver through the year 2025 unless it finds a way to prop up its existing funding sources.

$3 million
Cost of a new study that will examine during the next year the potential for passenger rail service both along the Front Range and I-70.

4.4 percent
Colorado’s unemployment rate in May, unchanged from the previous two months.

5.5 percent
The U.S. unemployment rate in May, up from 5 percent in April, the largest one-month increase in 22 years. Vectra Bank Colorado economist Jeff Thredgold warns, however, that the increase might be tied to faulty seasonal adjustments that did not accurately account for teenagers entering the labor force as schools ended classes.

$17.94
The national average hourly wage in May, a 0.3 percent increase (5 cents) over the previous month and a 3.5 percent rise from 12 months ago.
Sources: State of Colorado, Vectra Bank Colorado

On the record: Environment
"There’s no evidence at all that hurricanes both globally and in the Atlantic basin are getting worse. But you’re going to hear otherwise because there’s grant money."

William M. "Bill" Gray, international hurricane expert and professor emeritus at Colorado State University. Gray told a visiting group from the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce that he attributes global warming to natural rather than man-made factors, though he agrees carbon dioxide emissions should be reduced.


Leadership: Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce grooms young business leaders

When you have more college and graduate degrees than people in the room, chances are you’re mixing with a pretty powerful group.

That's how Richard Lewis described participants in the debut class of Chamber Connect last year as he was talking about the leadership program to a group of business people gathered for a "Day at the Capitol" sponsored by the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce.

The chance to meet with legislators is among the networking activities included in the Black Chamber’s program to groom young business leaders to take on bigger roles in the community. Now in its second year, Chamber Connect takes on about 35 people per year, most between the ages of "25 and 30-something," from both the corporate and entrepreneurial fields, and introduces them to business and community leaders.

"Our participants are very interested in getting involved, but they’re just not connected," said Lewis, vice chairman of the chamber (and featured in our July "Executive Edge"). "What we’re attempting to do, along with my co-chair Angela Williams of All State, is give them the advantage of our experience, the networking that we’ve already done."

Richard Rhodes, 33, said he enjoyed the spirit of collaboration with his peers and was impressed by the "unparalleled access" to the power brokers he gained through the program.

"If Richard and Angela introduced you to Tom Clark (of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.), chances are they are going to take the introduction a lot more seriously than if you were in some random group," said Rhodes, who operates advertising and multimedia firm RnR Design.

For more information on Chamber Connect, visit coloradoblackchamber.org or call (303) 831-0720. --By Mike Cote

Law: Holland & Hart expands Nevada footprint by teaming with local firm
Western law giant Holland & Hart has expanded its reach into the Nevada market by joining forces with a competing firm there. The company announced in late May that it is merging with Hale Lane, adding 50 attorneys to bring Holland & Hart’s total head count in seven Western states to 415.

"Nevada has been one of the fastest growing states in the country if not the fastest for the past several years," John Husband, chairman of Holland & Hart’s Management Committee, told ColoradoBiz. "This combination will make us the fourth largest firm in that state. Our goal is to be the largest and strongest firm in Nevada." -By Mike Cote

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