Colorado Transportation Commission approves planning rules that accounts for GHG emissions

Dec. 17, 2021
Total GHG emissions must be determined for future projects, which the state believes will result in better mobility through a variety of transport modes.

The Colorado Transportation Commission approved planning rules which will provide more travel options that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve air quality and reduce smog.

The standard requires the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the state’s five Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to determine the total GHG emissions expected from future transportation projects. The Colorado Transportation Commission says the policy “recognizes that the transportation projects that public agencies build have an impact” on how residents travel and believe the changes will result in more transportation choices.

CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said the state needs “to lead by example.”

“Transportation is the number one source of greenhouse gas pollution. The urgency of tackling climate action is real and inaction is not an option as we confront the reality of extreme events like devastating wildfires, floods and droughts becoming more frequent and air that is dangerous to breathe becoming the norm. Colorado’s Pollution Reduction Planning Standards hold the public agencies that make choices about what to build and how accountable for the options that we provide to Coloradans who rely on our multimodal systems each and every day,” said Lew.

The state says this approach, weighs air quality impacts at an early stage of project development, allows agencies to “holistically, and efficiently, consider how those projects fit into the built environments and surrounding communities.”

Adding sidewalks, enhancing downtowns for active transportation, improving local and intercity transit, as well as first and last-mile connectivity are some of the proven modes and innovations to improve quality of life, as well as air quality, that are supported by the new planning rules.

The proposed Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Planning Standard builds on and complements the state’s efforts to rapidly expand electric vehicles by also addressing the transportation infrastructure itself to better support clean transportation. This two-pronged strategy delivers on a commitment in the Colorado Greenhouse Gas Roadmap and implements a key provision of the state’s landmark transportation legislation, SB-260, which requires a number of steps to embed air quality and equity analysis and goals into transportation planning.

The state says the economic advantages are expected to benefit businesses and the public. Implementation of the rule will also reduce economic costs associated with carbon emissions, air pollution, motor vehicle crashes and the health consequences of physical inactivity. Travelers will benefit from reductions in vehicle operating costs, as well as using personal vehicles less as a result of expanded travel options and travel time savings. Businesses are also expected to benefit from congestion reduction that saves travel time for “on-the-clock” business travel, reduced health care costs for employees as a result of reduced air pollution, motor vehicle crashes and physical inactivity.

“The Transportation Commission considered numerous hours of comments at public hearings conducted all around the state, and reviewed several thousand pages of detailed written input as they developed the final rule adopted today,” said Transportation Commissioner Lisa Tormoen Hickey, who served as the chair of the commission’s ad-hoc committee that oversaw all work on the rule. “We are pleased to have adopted a rule which will continue our collaborative transportation planning process while we work together to build a more sophisticated transportation system based on modern transportation planning tools. The rule will increase access to efficient and safe travel options as Colorado continues to grow, while recognizing the climate impacts of the transportation sector. Most importantly, we have recognized that economic vitality depends on a stable and healthy environment, which has always been a hallmark of the Colorado way of life.”

Denver Mayor Michael B Hancock added, “Denver supports ambitious, economy-wide GHG reductions to achieve the science-based 2030 climate goals for transportation in Governor Polis’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap. This rule will result in more transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure throughout Denver and Colorado, and reflects the diversity of transportation needs throughout the state and allows for regionally-appropriate mitigation measures.”

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