The Colorado Department of Transportation is proposing a new transportation standard with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from statewide travel.
According to CDOT’s website, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap — the plan to combat climate change — determines the focus of the state’s transportation funding and aims to place a heavier emphasis on improving and developing public transportation.
On Oct.19, CDOT said the new standards set by the plan “would require CDOT and the state’s five Metropolitan Planning Organizations to determine the total pollution and greenhouse gas emission increase or decrease expected from future transportation projects and take steps to ensure that greenhouse gas emission levels do not exceed set reduction amounts.”
The website also indicates that focus will be spent on improving existing infrastructure that supports cleaner air, such as sidewalks and public transportation within and between cities.
Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies Dylan Harris discussed the specific use of the word “multi-modal” in the plan, speculating that it was left intentionally vague in terms of what specific forms of transportation the plan would eventually cover.
“I don’t think they really articulated, beyond the fact that they want to do this, exactly what kinds of projects [they are choosing],” he said. “Multi-modal could refer to many things, essentially with the goal of less greenhouse gas emissions.”
Harris believes that some of the specifics of the plan could involve moving away from highway construction and toward forms of public transit such as trains in order to lessen the need for cars to travel between cities.
“There have been discussions about creating a train between Fort Collins and Pueblo, and there is a train from Colorado Springs to Denver called the T-Rex that has been in the works for almost 30 years,” he said.
He also pointed out that, ironically, Colorado has been working for so long on developing the interstate between Colorado Springs and Denver “just in time for them to not invest in that anymore” in favor of providing public options to decrease the number of cars on the highway.
Harris and the CDOT website both indicated that the shift in transportation focus from fossil fuel to clean energy will gradually develop over the next few years. Most Coloradans will not feel the effects of the changes in transportation standards on a day-to-day basis.
The website outlines a 10-year transportation plan which originally began in 2019. It “identifies transportation improvements across the state, ranging from long-deferred resurfacing projects to large and complex projects.”
Harris also pointed out that regardless of the currently outlined actions, some change in the next decade is inevitable: “No matter what kind of mitigation we do in the next three or four years, to an extent, we’re locked into a certain amount of warming.”
Despite the rise in temperature, Harris believes that Colorado’s “progressive and aggressive” actions toward fighting climate change in the realm of transportation and moving away from fossil fuels will help to lower air pollution levels and rising temperatures in the state.
“Colorado’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is transportation, which in some ways is a lot more fixable than a fossil fuel economy,” he said. “I think the state’s been taking [global warming] very seriously, and I think that’s in part because were dealing with a lot of the realities of it.”
Harris said that based on past work that Colorado has done to combat greenhouse gas emissions, the state is somewhat “ahead of the curve” in terms of improving air quality, and that work will need to continue quickly so that further warming can be prevented.
“Things like transportation need to be addressed sooner rather than later so that when we cross that 10-year threshold [of warming], we can start to go down instead of continuing to go up,” he said.