Mayor Hancock wants to make a Denver Department of Transportation — here’s what that’ll take

Neighborhood Parking in  the Speer neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Neighborhood Parking in the Speer neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; speer; traffic; cars; transportation; parking;
Neighborhood Parking in the Speer neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Public Works will be split in two to better address the city’s transportation and mobility needs, Mayor Michael Hancock announced Wednesday.

First, the next Public Works head will create two divisions within the department; public works and mobility. Then, the city plans for a “a smooth transition to a new Department of Transportation and Mobility,” according to a release from the Mayor’s Office.

Naturally, there’s more to it. 

The new department will eventually handle “mobility policy and planning, parking, right of way and traffic engineering operations and maintenance,” according to the city. Public Works will keep responsibility for waste, water qualities and other services.

Also worth noting: Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman has talked about a new transit office before, in the context of adding microtransit to the city. Last October, Susman cited Bridj as one example of this concept, which essentially acted like an on-demand bus for up to 12 people. Bridj has since shut down.

But before the new department decides just how they’re going to increase mobility options in the city, we’re all going to need to sign off on this department’s existence.

The hope is to create a “cabinet-level” department, meaning that there will be a new department head to join the rest of the mayor’s appointees. To do that, there needs to be an amendment to the Denver city charter, which is something that requires approval from Denver voters.

At this point, you may have noticed there’s several big steps before this can become a reality. DPW needs a new executive director, this Denver city charter amendment needs to go through city council, then voters. All told, this process will take at least a year and a half, says Jenna Espinoza, deputy communications director for the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock.

The DPW reorganization could take at least 12 to 18 months, then the transition to a new department could take another six to 12 months. The biggest uncertainty is how long it would take to get a new executive director for Public Works, though the process has already started.

“Hopefully, we’ll find that person in the next few months,” Espinoza said.

It sounds like the hope is that the new department would be able to capitalize on the upcoming GO bond funds, which are focused on transportation.

“The Mayor’s announcement comes as the city prepares to seek voter approval in November for a $900 million General Obligation bond. The largest portion of bond proceeds will fund improvements to Denver’s street, bridge, pedestrian and bicycle networks,” said a press release on the subject.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to include more information on how long it will take for a new department to be built.