Broomfield Could Put the Brakes on the Jefferson Parkway Tonight

A southern entrance to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, near the parkway's proposed path.
A southern entrance to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, near the parkway's proposed path. Patricia Calhoun
While lawsuits seeking to close the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge (or simply gain more information about the site created from the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant) are stalled in court, development around the refuge northwest of Denver has hit a major roadblock.

Tonight, February 25, the Broomfield City Council will vote on Resolution 2020-82, which, if passed, would notify the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority that the City and County of Broomfield is withdrawing from the project that would create a toll road along the eastern boundary of Rocky Flats.

The JPPHA was created in 2008 with the mission of constructing ten miles of highway that would help finish a beltway encircling metro Denver envisioned by the Colorado Department of Transportation; Jefferson County, the City of Arvada and Broomfield have partnered with the authority on the project.

Now Broomfield could be pulling out. The reason? Concerns about radioactive contamination from the former nuclear weapons plant, which produced plutonium triggers. The Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority had asked Broomfield for $2.5 million in 2019 for its procurement process, designed to get the twelve-year-old project back on track. On September 1, after one soil sample out of 250 on and around the parkway construction site came back hot (Broomfield had requested that the JPPHA commission the study), the Broomfield City Council put the brakes on anteing up that amount.

Now it could vote to get out of the project altogether. As 2020-82 notes, "[S]oil testing detected a sample with 264 picocuries per gram of Plutonium (Pu) 239/240. This is more than five times the remedial action level for Pu 239/240 from the Rocky Flats Closure Plan. ... In addition, this is one of the highest soil sample results for Pu 239/240 outside of the former Rocky Flats industrial area."

The location of this level of contamination in the Jefferson Parkway right-of-way has caused the Broomfield City Council to reconsider its continuing participation, the resolution notes.

Two companies are in the running to build and operate the parkway. "The JPPHA is awaiting results from a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) analysis of soil samples collected in and around the alignment of the parkway, the JPPHA notes on its website. "Once CDPHE provides its feedback, expected in the first half of 2020, the JPPHA plans to finalize and issue its Request for Proposals to the two shortlisted teams."

But in the meantime, the authority could be scrambling to find another funding source, depending on the outcome of the Broomfield City Council vote. Here's the complete resolution:
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun