President Bruce Benson
Many old-timers still call U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver the "Boulder Turnpike," a holdover from the days when it cost a quarter to travel the road. It opened in 1952 after a collaboration between business interests and CU pushed for a direct route between the cities, and the toll ended in 1967, when the $6.3 million bond was retired. A similar collaborative effort among the university, businesses, cities and the state is in order to meet 21st century transportation needs.
Many alumni, me among them, who attended the Boulder campus still remark about the first time they crested the hill to see the view of the campus, Flatirons and Boulder Valley. Those traveling the road today are as likely to talk about traffic snarls as views.
Transportation is as vital now as a half century ago. As the university has grown and expanded to Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora, and as the growth of Colorado's Front Range continues unabated, an effective transportation network is crucial to the success of the state and the university.
That's why I have been – and will continue to be – active in efforts to improve transportation. We received some good news recently when the Regional Transportation District Board of Directors heard a recommendation to complete the FasTracks light rail line along Interstate 225, which will pass through the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora before joining the line to Denver International Airport. The proposal, which the board will vote on soon, would see the line completed by late 2015.
The campus is only about 1 square mile, but the density of people is staggering. When the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Garrison closed in 1994, about 3,500 people worked there. Today, an estimated 27,000 students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors are on campus each day. We expect that number to more than double in the coming decades, particularly with the 2015 completion of the Denver Veterans Administration Medical Center adjacent to campus. Building more parking garages won't alleviate congestion. A multi-modal solution is imperative.
The same is true for U.S. 36, another key piece of the transportation puzzle for the Denver metro area. With the I-225 solution proceeding, we are turning our attention to this critical link. There are many moving parts involved in the intricate web of transportation solutions across the metro area in general and along U.S. 36 in particular, which include light rail, bus lanes and others. But our bottom line is we need to ensure effective transportation for students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors.
We have placed great focus on fostering collaboration among faculty, students, staff and researchers across our campuses, with businesses and federal labs. While technology facilitates that collaboration, as often as not it involves face-to-face interaction. Accomplishing that requires effective transportation.
We will work with all interested parties – including cities, the state and federal government, transportation coalitions and intergovernmental agencies – to ensure that transportation needs are met. Now that light rail along I-225 and through the CU Anschutz Medical Campus has taken positive steps forward, we will focus on the northwest corridor.
Some six decades ago, CU stepped up to join business and government to build the Boulder Turnpike. We will do so again so that a half-century hence, our campuses will continue to be a major destination.
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