For now, it appears that Golden, Colorado, a city just west of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, has successfully blocked the expansion of Denver’s beltway, noted in a recent New York Times article. As proposed, the highway would run directly through the center of Golden, which, city leaders argue, would “cleave the narrow Golden Valley and shatter the community.” For decades, through the court system and political initiatives, the City has been able to block the expansion of the beltway, which is nearly a complete loop around Metro Denver. The question remains as to whether or not Golden should be applauded for their efforts or seen as obstructionists to regional progress.
Transportation planners say there is no clear answer to the efficacy of the urban beltway system that spread across the county the 1950s and 1960s. While in some cases beltways did lead directly to sprawl, in others, they helped preserve central cities by making it unnecessary to put a highway through a downtown. From a local perspective, Golden’s effort was certainly successful in maintaining the character of Golden itself. From a regional perspective, though, the effort can be seen as more problematic. Blocking the last segment of the beltway likely will not stop sprawl, which has already been created by its existing segments. According to the Urban Land Institute, from a regional planning and transportation perspective, “it makes more sense to have a full beltway than three-fourths of a beltway.”