When you jump in your car, hop on your bike, or set out to walk to the grocery store, you’re immediately part of a system of roads, sidewalks, bridges and other assets that connect us to our world. In Arapahoe County, our Public Works and Development department is responsible for planning and maintaining these important assets—a job that becomes increasingly more difficult as the County experiences major growth and strained revenue sources.
This month we’re celebrating National Public Works Week, May 21-27, to recognize the important role public works plays in connecting each of us and to thank people who work tirelessly to ensure our safety as we navigate one of the area’s largest multimodal transportation networks. We’re also taking the opportunity to talk with you about the frank realities of the County’s budget and its impact on our transportation system.
The County has an overall goal to protect our collective community by planning growth, maintaining infrastructure, and providing an organized multi-modal transportation system. Public Works and Development plays a significant role in achieving this goal. Through several divisions, the department plans the County’s vast multi-modal transportation network, manages and maintains 1,198 lane miles (370 centerline miles) of paved roads, about 220 miles of gravel roads, 43 bridges, nearly 14,000 signs, and a vast network of sidewalks, guardrails, traffic signals, and other transportation assets.
We’re also very proud of the department’s standing as they remain the only County in Colorado to be accredited by the American Public Works Association.
We have learned through various public outreach and engagement efforts that traffic congestion and safety within the County is the largest concern voiced by residents. And in an April poll seeking resident input on needs and priorities, we saw “repairing and improving transportation infrastructure” rise to the top. As one of your elected leaders, I couldn’t agree more with this priority. I’m a strong proponent of maintaining and improving our transportation infrastructure because it is what keeps us connected to each other and those outside of our County.
This is why we are sharing the results of a 2022 assessment of our transportation infrastructure needs. For decades we have collected this data and have used it for internal decision-making and resource allocation, but until now, it has never been shared with the public in a comprehensive manner. While it will be eye-opening for many, the “2022 Infrastructure Report Card” is an honest assessment of the condition of our roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.
The goal is to have 85 percent of County roads in Excellent-Good-Fair condition, but the Report Card showed that only 60 percent were at that level in 2022. Having 40 percent of roads in Poor-Very Poor condition is significantly higher than what it should be for a properly maintained roadway network. Maintenance goals and quality standards are established every year, and the County typically meets or exceeds those goals. However, due to funding constraints, the number of roads rated at Poor-Very Poor condition has been steadily increasing.
The bottom line is that since 2004, budget allocations to efficiently maintain these assets has not kept up with inflation. This has resulted in a further decline in overall road conditions and greater delayed maintenance costs as it costs 10 times more to repair roads and bridges once they are in a poor or very poor condition than it would have cost to keep them properly maintained over the years.
Our Public Works and Development staff works hard to maximize allocations for roads, bridges and other infrastructure assets, yet their fiscal stewardship can’t keep up with the demands that growth has placed on County resources. And as I mentioned in a Telephone Town Hall earlier this year, our County as a whole has done an incredible job of managing our funds and using them wisely and efficiently. But the increasing needs, especially related to our transportation infrastructure, are creating financial challenges. As your county commissioner, I made a promise to tackle that as one of my chief priorities and I intend to deliver on that promise.
In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to partnering with you to determine sustainable funding sources for our transportation infrastructure. Look for future telephone town hall events at www.arapahoegov.com/townhall, follow us on social media, or subscribe to The County Line newsletter to stay informed and get involved.
Jessica Campbell-Swanson serves on the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners representing District 2, which includes Centennial, Greenwood Village, a portion of Aurora and unincorporated central Arapahoe County.