2035 issue still simmering at PPACG

       In the latest wrinkle regarding the contested year 2035 draft Small Area Forecast, chief challenger Welling Clark has been given approval to crunch the numbers himself.
       The software program is downloadable, and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board authorized staff at its Nov. 14 meeting to provide Clark the data he needs. The idea, based on board discussion , will be to look at PPACG staff results against those that Clark gets, if they are ready in time for the next board meeting Dec. 12.
       Clark, who has called previous staff findings “implausible,” said he intends to run the data on his computer by the first week in December.
       Clark is representing the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN). His research into the issue began over a year ago, in conjunction with OWN's concerns that the state's Westside Highway 24 expansion plans were oversized - in part because of its reliance on what he believed were bloated traffic projections stemming from errors in the year 2030 Small Area Forecast. A new software program was used for the 2305 forecast effort this year, but Clark identified similar problems with its results.
       The forecast is part of what is called the “travel demand model,” a composite of educated guesses on where people will live or work in the region in the future.
       Clark believes a key reason for discrepancies is the preliminary live/work inputs. PPACG Transporta-tion Planner Craig Casper told the Pioneer that the regional planning agency had received such inputs from communities in the region, but Clark produced e-mails from representatives of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs that raised questions about this.
       Criticisms earlier this year by Clark - including his discovery that the draft forecast foresaw more jobs on the Westside in 2035 than in the major Banning-Lewis Ranch subdivision - have already led PPACG staff to make corrections, it was revealed at the Nov. 14 meeting. However, Casper claims that any tweaks to the 2035 forecast would make no real difference for Highway 24, because even at current traffic levels another lane needs to be added each way.
       Clark received some public support at the Nov. 14 meeting. Jan Doran of the PPACG's Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) told the board there were five votes in favor of revising the draft forecast based on Clark's September comments (though they were out-voted by 10 who disagreed with that idea). And, Mike Schmidt, a CAC member assigned to look into the issue objectively, defended PPACG staff efforts but said Clark's points “need to be taken seriously.”
       Also speaking at the meeting was John Kisiel of the Housing & Building Association (HBA), who said the HBA has concerns because of the importance of how and where future road or road upgrades are planned.
       The PPACG board has set a deadline of February to finalize this iteration of the 2035 forecast. The issue is to be taken up again in fall 2008. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is already using the draft version of the forecast because of its timetable for the Highway 24 expansion between I-25 and Manitou Springs (hoping to get an Environmental Impact Statement approved for the project by 2009).

Westside Pioneer article