Trans­porta­tion plan­ning on city agenda

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jon Mur­ray

Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock has or­dered a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works that could lead to the even­tual cre­ation of a new Cabi­netlevel trans­porta­tion depart­ment.

Some city of­fi­cials and bike, pedes­trian and tran­sit ad­vo­cates have urged such a move as a way to el­e­vate trans­porta­tion plan­ning. That and other street func­tions cur­rently are housed un­der Pub­lic Works, which also man­ages the sewer sys­tem, trash re­moval, wa­ter qual­ity projects and the city’s ve­hi­cle fleet.

“Re­struc­tur­ing Den­ver Pub­lic Works to el­e­vate trans­porta­tion and mo­bil­ity — now one of the high­est pri­or­i­ties for the peo­ple of Den­ver — and then cre­at­ing a new Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Mo­bil­ity will ad­vance our abil­ity to move more peo­ple, more ef­fi­ciently and more safely,” Han­cock said Wed­nes­day in a news re­lease.

But cre­at­ing that depart­ment would re­quire voter ap­proval of an amend­ment to the city char­ter — mak­ing it a long-term goal.

The re­quest is not ex­pected in time for this Novem­ber’s bal­lot, may­oral spokes­woman Am­ber Miller said, but it could be de­bated by the City Coun­cil and sent to vot­ers next year.

“This is an im­por­tant step for Den­ver,” said Piep Van Heu­ven, Bi­cy­cle Colorado’s Den­ver di­rec­tor, in an email.

“It will help trans­porta­tion plan­ners in­no­vate and de­liver ef­fi­cient so­lu­tions so that peo­ple have more safe, con­ve­nient choices to get around.

Cities like Pitts­burgh, Oak­land, Seat­tle, and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have all ben­e­fited from stand-alone trans­porta­tion de­part­ments.”

For now, Han­cock plans to con­sol­i­date Pub­lic Works’ trans­porta­tion plan­ning, park­ing en­force­ment, road main­te­nance and traf­fic en­gi­neer­ing func­tions in a new mo­bil­ity di­vi­sion of that depart­ment. The re­or­ga­ni­za­tion will be car­ried out by Pub­lic Works’ next ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor; Han­cock is look­ing to fill that $190,625-a-year po­si­tion af­ter the re­cent re­tire­ment of Jose Cornejo.

Han­cock has pushed for trans­porta­tion and mo­bil­ity projects to ac­count for the largest share of an in-the­works $900 mil­lion bond is­sue and plans to make those is­sues the fo­cus of his State of the City ad­dress on Mon­day, Miller said.

Still un­clear was the net bud­get im­pact of cre­at­ing a new depart­ment. Miller said no es­ti­mates were avail­able yet.

But Coun­cil­woman Mary Beth Sus­man, who has been among the voices calling for a sep­a­rate trans­porta­tion depart­ment, lauded Han­cock’s an­nounce­ment. “In­creas­ing mo­bil­ity op­tions in Den­ver is of ut­most im­por­tance,” she said in Han­cock’s news re­lease, “and the de­ci­sion to el­e­vate the city’s trans­porta­tion fo­cus is the right one at the right time.”

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