Transportation planning on city agenda
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.”