E-470 is a private, 47-mile long toll road that forms an outer beltway around the eastern side of Denver from Colorado C-470/Interstate 25 in the south to Interstate 25/Northwest Parkway in the north.
Project Type:Beltway Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:160,818 Length (mi):47.00
Economic Distress:1.24 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):425 Population Growth Rate (%):1.25
Employment Growth Rate (%):0.55 Market Size:937,204 Airport Travel Distance:38.6934 Topography:9
Region:Rocky Mountain / Far West State:CO County:Boulder, Adams, Denver, Douglas, Arapahoe Counties
City:Denver Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:39.562764 / -104.924488
Initial Study Date:1987 Post Constr. Study Date:2006
Constr. Start Date:1988 Constr. End Date:2003
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1999 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):1,547,215,594 Actual Cost (curr $):2,163,473,608
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||687.88||557.18||1245.06|
|Output (in $M's)||1975.56||1600.20||3575.76|
E-470 (short for Extension 470) is a private, 47-mile long toll road that forms an outer beltway around the eastern side of Denver from Colorado C-470/Interstate 25 in the south to Interstate 25/Northwest Parkway in the north. The freeway directly serves Denver International Airport and intersects with Interstate 70 in Aurora. The Northwest Parkway, under construction as of 2009, will connect E-470 to Boulder. E-470 was constructed as a four-lane highway, with portions expanded to six lanes in 2003. The roadway was designed to allow expansion to eight lanes in the future, and to accommodate multi-use paths and either an HOV lane or mass transit in the median. An estimated 10,000 to 11,000 direct jobs were created by this project.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The E-470 highway is a four to six lane partial beltway around the eastern edge of the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area. The Denver region is served by Interstate 25 running north-south, and Interstate 70 running east-west. The road passes through Douglas, Arapahoe, Adams, Broomfield and a small sliver of Denver Counties. It also traverses the municipalities of Parker, Centennial, Aurora, Commerce City, Brighton, Thornton and Glendale. The freeway directly serves Denver International Airport and intersects with Interstate 70 in Aurora. The freeway connects to the Northwest Parkway at I-25 in the north.
The need for a beltway around Denver was first articulated in the 1960's. The Colorado Department of Transportation proposed to the Federal Highway Administration that it be constructed as an interstate highway, and I-470 was added to plans for the interstate highway system in the Federal Highway Act of 1968. The plan called for the Federal government to pay for 90% of its construction, with the state paying the remaining 10%. Planning and engineering began almost immediately. However, early in the environmental review process, opposition to the project grew, with the Colorado Department of Health claiming that the project would violate the Federal Clean Air Act. The governor issued a cease and desist order halting all planning for the highway. The Governor established a commission to evaluate how to proceed. One recommendation of the commission was to build the Centennial Parkway connecting Golden, Colorado to the west of Denver with I-25 to the south. This highway was constructed with state funds and completed in 1990.
Pressure still remained to build a complete beltway around Denver. However, the Colorado Department of Transportation did not wish to fund the project. Therefore, it could only be built as a toll road. In 1983, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, later joined by the City of Aurora, formed the E-470 Task force to study alignment and financing options for a western beltway. The study was completed in 1985, and recommended the highway be built on its current alignment. In February of 1985, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties and the City of Aurora created an intergovernmental agreement to create the E-470 Public Highway Authority to build and operate the eastern beltway. The Authority issued $772 million in "Capital Improvement Trust Fund Highway Revenue Bonds" to finance construction of the toll road. The first five-mile segment of the road opened in 1991, with an additional 17.3 miles opened in 1998, and 12 more miles opened in 1999. Another four-mile section opened in 2002, and the remaining eight miles were completed and opened in 2003.
In 1985, the City of Denver and Adams County began the search for a site for a new airport, focusing on sites north of the existing Stapleton International Airport and along E-470. The airport was eventually located in the far northeast corner of Denver County, adjacent to the City of Aurora and E-470. It opened in 1995.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
The City of Denver, with a population of 2,363,866, is the largest city in Colorado. The greater Denver region has been growing at a rapid pace, with the population increasing from 1,450,768 to 2,464,866 (70%) between 1980 and 2006.
The economy of the Denver region has evolved over its history. The city originated as a mining and agriculture community. During the 1970's and early 1980's, the community became a center for the oil and gas industry, and the population and economy exploded. However, by the 1990's, oil prices plummeted and with them the economy of Denver. The city reinvented itself as a high technology and telecommunications center. The city suffered another downturn with the burst of the dot.com bubble in the early part of the 21st century. The city is now successfully diversifying into new industries, including green energy technology, bioscience, and aerospace.
Denver is referred to as the "Mile-High City" because its elevation is one mile above sea level. Its topography dictates development patterns. The city sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains, with the mountains majestically sweeping up to the west of the city, and an expanse of plains to the east. The amount of vacant land to the east of the city meant that, for many years, land was abundant and cheap. This area has been a focus of activity for speculative developers who have purchased vast amounts of land, holding it for long periods of time in anticipation of the eastward expansion of the city. This area of the region is now undergoing enormous growth, with over 170,000 housing units recently constructed, under development, or planned within the E-470 corridor. This residential development is now attracting millions of square feet of retail and commercial development.
The original motivation for the E-470, dating back to the 1960's, was to relieve congestion on the existing roadway network. When the highway was first proposed, planners recognized that the existing highway network would not be able to handle the traffic anticipated as the region grew. The beltway was thought necessary to accommodate regional growth.
The jurisdictions which took on the planning and construction of E-470 in the 1980's viewed the road as necessary to support expected future development as the City of Denver expanded to the east. According to Tollroad News, the road was envisioned as a "development" road, built in advance of and in anticipation of new growth and associated traffic. In keeping with this theme, land speculation increased as plans for the highway moved forward. The land east of Denver was characterized by farm and ranch land. Thousands of acres could be owned by a single farmer, and land speculators approached farmers and began purchasing huge swaths of undeveloped land on the plain to the east of the city, through which the highway was expected to pass.
The E-470 is unique for several reasons. At a construction cost of $1.23 billion, the highway was one of the first privately built, owned and operated toll roads in the United States. The funding included substantial bonding, as well as a voter-imposed vehicle registration fee of ten dollars annually for all vehicles registered to residents of the jurisdictions through which the toll road passes. Further, large amounts of the land needed for the highway and, particularly, for interchanges, was donated by land owners speculating that the highway would increase the development value of their property. The E-470 was the first toll road in the country to install high-speed electronic toll collection lanes. In 2009, the toll road will become cashless, with users paying either with a transponder or via charges made to owners of vehicles using the road, based on photos of license plates.
The jurisdictions that are members of the E-470 Public Highway Authority voted to allow the Authority to exact a fee on developments within 1-1/2 mile of the center line of the highway, anticipating that these developments will realize the biggest benefit from the highway. The fees are scaled so that developments closer to the highway pay a higher fee, and those closer to an interchange pay a higher fee. This is another indication that the communities within the corridor and the Authority all feel the highway has a positive impact on the value of properties within close proximity to the highway as would be important in shaping regional development patterns.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Some key factors have affected the utilization of the E-470. First, because it preceded much of the anticipated development, utilization of the road was slow to materialize. In 1991, the initial annual toll revenue for the first five-mile section of the road totaled just $475,156. By 2006, after all 47 miles were completed and opened for business, the annual collections totaled $100 million. In 2003, the first year in which the entire highway was in operation, there were 120,208 toll transactions on the highway. This number increased to 160,818 in 2008, a 34% increase from 2003. (Note: Toll transactions do not equate with AADT as there are five points along the highway where a vehicle must pass through a toll booth. Thus, if a vehicle travels the full length of the road, it will register five transactions.)
The highway is never operating at capacity. There are two significant reasons for the lack of congestion on the road. First, while the counties and municipalities in the E-470 corridor have been growing rapidly, they are still on the fringes of the metropolitan area and much of the anticipated development remains in the future. Second, Coloradans were not accustomed to paying tolls for using highways prior to the opening of E-470. There is still substantial resistance to paying for highway travel, which has kept many people off the highway. As congestion continues to increase on alternative roadways, use of the E-470 is increasing.
The E-470 has provided an important connection to the new Denver International Airport, located just outside of Aurora. People traveling from the west to the airport utilize the E-470 to avoid having to pass through the center of Denver. Travelers can save 25 to 30 minutes by using the toll facility. The E-470 is also helping to relieve congestion along I-25, which is often at or over capacity.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
Over the past three decades, Denver has been one of the fastest growing economic regions in the country. The city grew during the energy boom of the 1980's and has expanded its economic base with high technology industries.
There is general consensus among officials in the study area that the impact of the E-470 has accelerated development in the far eastern suburbs of Denver. The highway runs through areas that were primarily farmland before the highway was built. Most officials hold that the highway has increased the rate of development and accelerated the timetable for development by as much as 15 years. None of those interviewed felt that the highway had attracted businesses and residential development that would not have occurred eventually.
The highway has changed the pattern of development in the study area. Prior to the E-470, development generally occurred on parcel contiguous to existing urbanized areas served by water and sewer. Development was more compact and it was not costly to extend services to the developments. With the construction of the E-470, development has shifted to locations along the highway, often creating a "leapfrog" effect. Communities are being asked to annex parcels that are not immediately adjacent or which have only a small interface with the existing municipal boundaries. This has led to greater sprawl and a higher cost to provide these new developments with services. Some officials also complain that the new commercial development has primarily been retail, creating lower paying jobs, not the higher paying jobs associated with office development. In many of the municipalities in the study area, planners are reevaluating long range plans and developing new master plans for areas around E-470 interchanges.
The population of the study area has grown by 79% between 1980 and 2006, compared to a statewide increase of 49%. Employment increased by 22% in the corridor between 1990 and 2003, while the number of jobs in the state grew by 55% between 1990 and 2006.
Because the Denver region as a whole has grown steadily during the past few decades, the vast majority of remaining undeveloped land in the region is to the east of the city, and the new Denver airport opened in the corridor, it is difficult to isolate the effects of the E-470 on development. Within the E-470 corridor, developers have either constructed or have plans for constructing a total of 171,097 housing units, 67,139,509 million square feet of commercial/office space, 22,106,303 square feet of retail space, and 8,998,920 square feet of industrial space.
Planners throughout the region agree that not all this space will get developed, and that only a portion of the already built and proposed development is influenced by E-470. However, an estimated 6,534 housing units, 1.48 million square feet of commercial/office space, 822,832 square feet of retail space, and 1.25 million square feet of industrial space have been built as a direct result of the access provided by E-470. This translates into 10,636 jobs, including 6,203 commercial/office jobs, 1,829 retail jobs, and 2,604 manufacturing/warehouse jobs (1).
Within the study area, certain areas have experienced more development activity than others. Aurora and Adams County, which are not only traversed by the highway, but are also in close proximity to Denver International Airport, have seen explosive development. Aurora also has an interchange between the E-470 and I-70 and there have been several developments in this area. Thornton, which is at the northern interchange between I-25 and E-470, has also experienced a high rate of growth. However, officials credit I-25 with having a greater influence on many of these projects than E-470.
Overall, local officials agree that the highway has improved mobility throughout the Denver region. Prior to the construction of E-470, residents living on one side of the city had to pass through the downtown to access jobs, shopping or other destinations on the other side of the City. With the opening of the E-470, travel between destinations within the metropolitan area takes no more than one hour, allowing residents more choice in where to live and work.
The influence of E-470 on the rate of growth in the corridor will continue to be felt in the years to come as additional improvements are made to the highway. Of planned projects not yet built, 39,920 housing units, almost 30 million square feet office/commercial space, and over 3.3 million square feet of retail space, resulting in another 132,215 jobs in the corridor are expected to occur as a result of the E-470. In Thornton, there are several projects that are on hold awaiting the completion of a new interchange at Quebec Avenue. This interchange is expected to open by 2011. In addition, there are plans to extend FastTracs, the local fixed rail transit system, into the corridor. There is at least one transit-oriented development project planned for a future end-of-line station in Thornton that is within ? mile of the E-470, and officials believe that E-470 will support development of this project. Further, FastTracs is proposed to extend to the airport, which will support additional development in the vicinity of the airport and E-470.
Planners in the Denver region believe that the study area is the next frontier for development in the Denver region. The region is projected to continue to grow over the next 25 years, adding an additional 1 million people. The western edge of the city was fairly developed at the time the E-470 was built, and further expansion west was limited by the mountains and land availability. The large amounts of relatively inexpensive, undeveloped land east of the city had been targeted by developers prior to the announcement that the E-470 would be built.
The development in the study area has slowed considerably with the recent national economic downturn. Several projects have gone bankrupt and several developers have pulled out. For many of these projects, the zoning approvals that went with the projects have been revoked, requiring any future developer to start the development process from the beginning.
Water resource concerns will limit just how much development can eventually occur in the eastern fringes of the Denver metropolitan area. Also, a new national focus on more compact development in more urbanized areas as a result of increasing energy costs and a move toward ?greener? development, which will be supported by the FastTracs expansion, may slow the pace of development in some portions of the corridor.
City of Aurora
City of Brighton
City of Thornton
Denver Regional Council of Governments
E-470 Public Highway Authority
Town of Parker
Case Study Developed by Susan Jones Moses & Associates