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The Powerline Trails bill could have big implications for multimodal transportation

The following testimony was delivered in front of the Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee on Tuesday, March 15. It was delivered in favor of the Powerline Trails bill by Bicycle Colorado’s Director of Government Relations, Piep van Heuven. 

Good afternoon Madam Chair and committee members. My name is Piep van Heuven. I’m speaking to you today on behalf of Bicycle Colorado, our 10,000 members statewide, and the 2.3 million Coloradans who ride a bike each year. Thank you for hearing my testimony today. 

I’m here to ask you to vote yes on House Bill 1104, the Powerline Trails Bill. 

The bill will help communities across the state understand their options to work with utility providers and build new long-distance multi-modal walking, hiking and bicycling paths underneath hundreds of miles of powerlines. 

The bill helps highlight a creative and unique solution—meeting two community needs at once by both providing for energy needs, and recreation and transportation needs.

Here are some points to consider: 

  • Biking and healthy outdoor recreation is booming yet Coloradans don’t have enough local areas to recreate and ride, and it’s challenging to find new spaces for trails and trail systems. 
  • As an example of demand, South Suburban Parks & Recreation District south of Denver reported a 93% increase in biking and 64% increase in walking early in the pandemic and we’ve heard little to suggest that ridership is diminishing.
  • Multiuse trails offer healthy outdoor options for residents, visitors, youth and families, and safe routes that connect people to work, school, or other destinations that are important whether they’re walking and biking by choice, or necessity.  
  • Trails are a big community asset—they improve health and bring outdoor recreation tourism to rural areas of the state. For instance, Fruita’s sales tax revenues increased by 51% over five years in the early 2000’s as their trail tourism increased, including an 80% increase in sales tax revenues from restaurants. Apparently, when Coloradans use trails more often, it makes them hungry!

There are already a few highly valued, well known existing powerline trails around the state, including the Fort Collins Power Trail,  Douglas County’s new East-West Regional Trail, Loveland’s North Trail, and Lakewood’s Dry Gulch Trail. But there could—and should—be more.

This bill is important because municipalities that may want to take advantage of partnership opportunities with utilities might not know about the option, or understand requirements. And everybody wins while approving transmission lines when there is an opportunity for additional community benefits.

We urge your support for HB-1104 today for these reasons and to preserve and enhance Colorado’s brand as a creative, healthy outdoor recreation state. 

Thank you.

Piep van Heuven

About the Author: Piep van Heuven

Piep heads up our efforts to make Colorado the best place to ride a bike for anyone who chooses to ride. She connects with elected and appointed officials around Colorado to promote and support better bicycle and multimodal infrastructure and policies.

COMMENTS (2)

Bob Bettinger - Reply

Excellent work, Piep. Where can I find more information on these trails which you mentioned? Keep up the great work! Thanks a lot. BobBettinger

Piep van Heuven - Reply

Hi Bob: Here are some links related to the existing trails: The Fort Collins Power Trail: https://www.fcgov.com/parks/trails, Douglas County East West Trail: https://www.douglas.co.us/dcoutdoors/trails/regional-trails/east-west-regional-trail/, Lakewood Dry Gulch https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/colorado/lakewood-gulch-trail

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