On Monday, the Denver City Council OK’d a ballot measure that will create Denver’s first-ever transportation department if voters approve it in November.
The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure will deliver street-level projects faster and set the table for a city-run transit agency, according to city staffers. Mayor Michael Hancock would appoint the department’s director. The cabinet-level post would also be enshrined in the charter.
Right now Denver Public Works, which is also in charge of recycling and sewers, controls how people move around the city. The new setup prioritizes moving people around the city and will demote Public Works to a division within the new department that manages solid waste, wastewater and other traditional functions.
“I’m very excited about what the Public Works department has done with its leadership to create this,” said City Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman. “It will mean so much to us in terms of taking ownership in our transportation needs, our transit needs, our pedestrian walkways and bikeways.”
Monday’s Council action comes after more than three years of discussions. Denver will join major cities like Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., all of which have transportation departments. The consolidation will save an estimated $7 million annually, according to city documents.
A transportation division comprised of 120 staffers resides in the department right now. About 1,100 city staffers will work on transportation issues in the future, Public Works Executive Director Eulois Cleckley told Denverite earlier this year.
The city wants to play a bigger role in public mass transit, which is a major reason for the proposed change. Denver has the greatest population density and largest job center in the region, but shares the Regional Transportation District’s service with suburbs and exurbs.
Denver could operate its own transit system if voters pass the charter change. The city could also simply operate transit in conjunction with RTD.