Colorado Emissions Reduction Plan Ties Sustainable Transportation to State Funding

The state’s Greenhouse Gas Planning Standard uses tangible financial penalties to prioritize transportation projects that reduce emissions.

1 minute read

February 6, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of downtown Denver, Colorado with freeway in foreground

The The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) will reallocate funds planned for an expansion of Interstate 25 and C-470 to bus rapid transit projects. | Leeweh / Denver, Colorado

In a guest post on TransitCenter, Planetizen’s own James Brasuell outlines a new Colorado rule that “rearranges regional capital investment plans to prioritize the transportation modes that most effectively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: public transit, walking, and biking.”

The state adopted its GHG Transportation Planning Standard in December 2021, requiring its five metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to set clear emissions reduction goals. “Under the GHG Transportation Planning Standard, MPOs failing to meet greenhouse gas targets (GHG) targets are required to develop mitigation action plans” that contribute to “good projects,” i.e. those that help reduce vehicle miles driven and promote alternate modes of transportation.

Brasuell describes the broad-based coalition that grew around the effort to develop the Planning Standard, which encompassed various levels of government and nongovernmental advocates. Already, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) scrapped a freeway expansion plan due to the Planning Standard.

Colorado’s plan could well serve as a model for other states. “While many states’ climate plans are completely separate from their actual expenditure plans, the mode shift required by Colorado’s GHG Transportation Planning Standard will be enforced with tangible fiscal penalties–a degree of financial consequences not achieved by other laws around the country, such as California’s SB 375.”

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