Arvada, Jefferson County sue Broomfield over beleaguered Jefferson Parkway project

Arvada and Jefferson County have sued Broomfield, claiming that its 2020 withdrawal from an agreement to build the Jefferson Parkway — one of the last unfinished segments of the beltway encircling Denver — has made completing the $250 million project “impossible.”

“The completion of the Jefferson Parkway is not possible without Broomfield’s performance,” the lawsuit asserts. “Broomfield’s actions throw the future of the Jefferson Parkway into disarray and leave Arvada and Jefferson County no way to recoup the millions of dollars in taxpayer contributions that have been expended on the project to date.”

The suit, filed last week in Jefferson County District Court, asks a judge to order Broomfield “to convey to the (Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority) the land and rights-of-way within its jurisdiction necessary to complete the path of the Parkway.”

The Jefferson Parkway would connect Broomfield to State Highway 93 north of Golden, a 10-mile chunk of road that would nearly complete Denver’s beltway, currently comprised of C-470, E-470 and the Northwest Parkway.

Arvada and Jefferson County, which together with Broomfield formed the highway authority 14 years ago, are also demanding that Broomfield pay its share of costs associated with project preparation for both 2018 and 2019, as well as costs for “further soil sampling and testing.”

Broomfield pulled out of the authority in late February 2020, citing an elevated reading of plutonium discovered the previous year in the proposed path of the tollway as the chief reason behind its decision to withdraw. The Jefferson Parkway would skirt the east side of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, which was home to a nuclear weapons manufacturing plant throughout the Cold War.

“After that soil sample, I think it would be irresponsible to move forward with this alignment,” Broomfield Councilman William Lindstedt said at the time.

A spokeswoman for Broomfield declined to comment Monday, saying the city had yet to be served with the complaint. Several attempts to reach Bill Ray, executive director of the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority, were unsuccessful.

Arvada Mayor Marc Williams, who sits on the authority, said he doesn’t see the Jefferson Parkway as a “doomed project.”

“If you look at the congestion on Indiana Street, Highway 93 and the side roads in our respective communities, I think there is still a tremendous need for this parkway,” Williams said.

He said he’s been in contact with Broomfield officials in recent days and has high hopes that the issue of land dedication for the parkway can be resolved before a trial is scheduled.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can do that,” the mayor said.

But if not, Arvada and Jefferson County say Broomfield is obligated to cover the costs that they have put into the tollway so far. According to the lawsuit, taxpayers have contributed nearly $16.8 million from 2008 to 2019. Arvada has put in the most, at nearly $7 million, while Jefferson County has contributed just over $6.3 million.

Broomfield’s contributions total nearly $3.5 million over that time.

The project has faced strong headwinds from both environmentalists concerned that construction could potentially unearth plutonium from the old Rocky Flats weapons facility and from Arvada residents who don’t want a highway running through their neighborhoods.

In 2019, one of three firms in the running to build the tollway dropped out, saying the project didn’t make financial sense. Williams said the numbers can be run again but first the corridor for the highway must be secured.

“We need to resolve this with Broomfield before we can go out to the market and proceed further,” he said.

Source: Read Full Article