‘Beltway completion authority’ bill a long-shot this year

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DENVER -- Legislation now being drafted to create a government board with the power to complete a toll road beltway around the metro area over the objections of local town and cities is unlikely to go anywhere during the current legislative session, which ends in a few weeks.

"This bill hasn't even been introduced yet," said Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, who's considering sponsoring the legislation if it can be introduced this year. "I haven't even seen a draft yet, and I have some concerns of my own. So it's not looking realistic that we can do this in a few weeks."

But even if the legislation isn't an imminent threat, the cities it would affect are sounding the alarm over what they perceive as a sweeping extension of the government's ability to invoke eminent domain.

"The legislature, over the last five-to-10 years, has been limiting eminent domain," Mike Bestor, the city manager for the City of Golden, told FOX31 Denver Monday. "And now here is this huge grab for dominant eminent domain.

"People want to build this high-speed tollway through our little valley here with no concern for the impact on the quality of life for our homeowners, for our citizens."

What Bestor is calling a "secret attack" marks the latest impasse in a long-running battle between the city and Jefferson County over the proposed "Jefferson Parkway", a toll road that would connect C-470 from where it ends just south of Golden north to Colo. 128 in Broomfield, essentially completing the beltway encircling the Denver metro area.

"This would enable us to use a public-private partnership to finance the completion of the beltway," Jefferson County Commissioner Don Rosier told FOX31 Denver Monday. "Just the completion of the Jefferson County Parkway would add 9,000 jobs immediately, and it would lead over time to another 15,000 new jobs for this area."

Boyd concurs, although she has problems with the extreme eminent domain provisions in the legislation as it's drawn up now.

"Denver is one of the few huge major areas that does not have a completed beltway, and I think we suffer as a result," said Boyd, who believes that a completed beltway would ease traffic congestion and speed economic growth in the northwest part of the metro area.

"If the transportation in and out of that corridor is high quality, businesses will grow there," Boyd said. "Nothing encourages job growth like a major highway, or roadway."

Bestor, however, dismisses those claims.

"This is not going to relieve congestion in I-25; this is not going relieve congestion on Sixth Avenue," Bestor said. "All this does is help certain landowners make their property worth more."

Jefferson County decided to draw up the legislation after Golden pulled out of an intergovernmental agreement last December.

After nearly six months of negotiations, the ink was nearly dry on an agreement to build the Jefferson Parkway when, according to Rosier, the City of Golden backed out.

"This is kind of a last resort," Rosier said. "We never want to have to use dominant eminent domain. But if another municipality purchases property to stop a project and does everything it can to block it, the law allows us to use dominant eminent domain."