OWN charges PPACG with making ‘unrealistic growth projections’ – some agree

       A long-simmering dispute about the reliability of regional traffic forecasts for the year 2035 came close to the boiling point at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board meeting June 13.
       Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), had in the past used the word “anomalies” in questioning PPACG forecast findings; during the board's citizen comment period, he charged that PPACG staffers are using “hand-entered” data that is “driving unrealistic growth projections west of I-25.”
       He received support from three of the board members (although no vote was taken). A fourth, Jeri Howells of Fountain, disagreed with PPACG Transportation Director Craig Casper's statement that Fountain no longer has concerns about the forecast. “It was being discussed at last night's City Council meeting,” she said.
       Jerry Heimlicher, a board member and the City Council representative for the older Westside, said he has “tons of respect for his (Clark's) analytical abilities.” As a result, based on the OWN president's presentation, he said he now fears the PPACG forecast is “way out of whack.”
       Accuracy is essential, he said, because “we'll be making major highway decisions over the next couple of years based on these kinds of numbers.”
       One of Clark's underlying concerns, he said after the meeting discussion, is the major Westside Highway 24 expansion proposed by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). “What it seems like they're trying to do is engineer Highway 24 to be the next interstate,” Clark said.
       PPACG Director Rob MacDonald responded to the criticism by saying his staffers use “nationally accepted” methods in determining where growth will occur and what it will mean to traffic. Casper conceded said there could be issues with a few of the city's scores of geographical zones, but said these have been addressed in the new run (disputing Clark's claim that more than just a few zones have problems).
       Board Chair Wayne Williams suggested that board members and the public review the new forecast “run” that is due out next week to see if the concerns still exist.
       Clark recommended to the board that there be a “joint meeting” of “concerned [PPACG] member entities” to reach a consensus on the forecast issues. This would help ensure realistic findings, he believes. Among Clark's discoveries in the most recent run (in April) was that, even though the area west of I-25 would be 99.5 percent developed by the year 2010, the PPACG forecast suggests a 45 percent job increase. “PPACG has forced job growth into zones that have no land available for development,” Clark states in one PowerPoint slide.
       The forecast issue first came up about a year ago, when Clark pointed out what he termed “anomalies” in the 2030 traffic projections in connection with discussions on Highway 24. The switch this year to a 2035 forecast - which reportedly is coupled with a more sophisticated software program - was required for transportation planning purposes that call for a time frame as close as possible to 30 years in the future.
       Clark had disputed the 2035 strategy before the PPACG board's April meeting, leading to a board vote to accept what is known as the Draft 2035 Small Area Forecasts while adding the caveat that the results are subject to 90-day reviews.

Westside Pioneer article