Printed Letters: June 9, 2017
Tipton, improve and pass the RECLAIM Act
Rep. Scott Tipton needs to make sure the RECLAIM Act remains as intended to help regions that have been left with abandoned coal mines. The version of the RECLAIM Act that Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Hal Rogers recently introduced does not live up to the original intent of the bill.
It does not live up to our Western Slope need for the RECLAIM Act. The $1 billion investment in cleaning up old abandoned mining sites is more than a matter of reclaiming the land — it’s also about rebuilding communities hit hardest by the coal industry’s downturn by empowering them to spur economic growth.
The original RECLAIM Act had specific language to maximize economic development and diversification on the cleanup sites, as well as prioritized local input on project proposals and how they’d be run. The whole purpose behind this language was to let the people chart their own course and be less beholden to one single industry. Most folks agree that more job opportunities from new and diverse industries would be a good thing.
Rep. Tipton must defend the original provisions in the RECLAIM Act and get it passed in Congress. It’s important to Western Colorado and to our state as a whole.
Stop the projected Redlands roundabout
The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment allows the people to petition the government for grievances. But the 1,082 Redlands petition signers and 10 small business owners who oppose CDOT’s unnecessary roundabout project must compete with a $4 million handout from Uncle Sam.
Colorado Department of Transportation is the epitome of bureaucracy. It is a state branch of the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. State legislators and congressmen are reluctant to deal with multiple layers of appointed officials, such as the FHWA “national safety expert,” the State Transportation Commission, and the Regional Transportation Committee. These commissioners and committee members, who appear to be advocates for the citizens, usually rubberstamp CDOT’s projects and are only allowed to “set priorities.”
In 1994 the State Transportation Commission even delegated eminent domain decisions to state engineers, a move the Colorado Supreme Court “characterized as an ‘abdication of the commission’s statutory duty,’” the Denver Post reported.
“(The commission) ... exists in part ‘to protect the landowners against attempts by the agency to lay claim to their land…’” The state commission and CDOT violated state law for 22 years before a lawsuit caused the court to yank their claims.
Redlands residents have worked for months to stop the projected roundabout because the city’s 2015 traffic count at this intersection (more than 27,000 vehicles per day) exceeds the FHWA’s single roundabout capacity (a maximum 26,000 vehicles per day). CDOT’s application for the federal grant underreported the traffic count as 12,300 vehicles per day, thus exaggerating the “high rate of 28 accidents” that occurred between 2011 and 2015 — actually an average of one crash per 1.76 million vehicles. According to CDOTs more recent report, “the percentage of all crashes attributed to distracted driving spiked significantly between 2011 and 2015” across the state. (The nanny state can never prevent all accidents when teens, texters, speeders and drunks are on the road.)
This agency is insulated from public opinion because the four local members of the GJRTC/MPO “advisory committee,” none of whom live on the Redlands, voted for this project in 2012 but have no power to cancel it. (Redlands residents never heard of the project until 2016.) CDOT has an obvious incentive to push such unpopular projects because “free” federal grant money pays for local jobs. They have ignored the objections of 1,000 residents and small businesses and sentenced us to prolonged traffic diversions of up to a year, after which the new intersection will be confusing to drivers and less safe for pedestrians. Why aren’t local and state officials elected by the people standing up to these bureaucratic bullies?
CDOT’s defense is that roundabouts not only prevent injury accidents, but also “prevent idling and pollution.” The long lines of slow traffic will increase idling and pollution. CDOT now says only the city of Grand Junction, which initially referred the project, can call a hall to it. (The city’s planning department wrongly handed CDOT a project that City Council members never voted for.) Redlands drivers should be able to pass on the valley’s 18th roundabout while state highways are in need of repair. Please find the city of Grand Junction in your phone book and tell council members and the city manager to say no to CDOT.
STEPHEN & DARLEEN GSELL