Jefferson County and the City of Arvada have sued Broomfield over its decision to back out of plans for a 10-mile, $250 million highway connecting Broomfield and Golden.
The lawsuit, filed June 1 in Jefferson County District Court, accuses the City and County of Broomfield of breaching a 2010 contract to build the long-delayed Jefferson Parkway. It asks the court to penalize Broomfield financially and force it to hand over land needed for the tollway.
“The completion of the Jefferson Parkway is not possible without Broomfield’s performance,” the lawsuit states. “Broomfield’s actions throw the future of the Jefferson Parkway into disarray and leave Arvada and Jefferson County no way to recoup the millions of dollars in taxpayer contributions that have been expended on the project to date.”
The four-lane Jefferson Parkway would connect Highway 128 in Broomfield near the Interlocken Loop with Highway 93 about 10 miles southwest of there in Golden.
According to the lawsuit, Arvada taxpayers have contributed $6.9 million to the project, other Jefferson County taxpayers have contributed $6.3 million and Broomfield taxpayers $3.5 million. The plan is for that money to be recouped via tolls on the parkway, but that can’t happen if it’s never built.
In February 2020, the Broomfield City Council voted unanimously to leave the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority, an entity created in 2008 to coordinate construction of the highway. It did so because of elevated plutonium readings in the path of the proposed parkway, which would run adjacent to the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, now a wildlife refuge.
“We learned about the lawsuit filing yesterday and have not yet been served,” Broomfield spokeswoman Carolyn Romero said in an email Friday. “We have no comment at this time.”
David Jones, the mayor pro tem of Arvada and chairman of the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority, or JPPHA, said in an email Friday that the highway project is “on hold until we can find a workable resolution with Broomfield’s request for removal from JPPHA.”
The history of the proposed Jefferson Parkway is long and fraught. The idea of a beltway loop around Denver dates back to the late 1960s and rights of way for the Jefferson Parkway were set aside by Congress in 2001 when it created the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
Agreements in 2008 and 2010 established the highway authority and the partnership between Jefferson County, Arvada and Broomfield. Environmentalists and the town of Superior fought the matter in federal court in 2012, and won temporary victories but ultimately couldn’t stop the project.
Then came Feb. 25, 2020, and the Broomfield council’s decision to leave the partnership, which was met by applause from residents in the audience. According to news reports, then-Councilwoman Guyleen Castriotta said of Rocky Flats, “I can’t believe they built anything there — it should never have been touched. Now we have a council that is health and safety first.” (Castriotta has since been elected the mayor of Broomfield.)
Arvada and Jefferson County see it differently. In their lawsuit last week, they claimed that under the 2010 contract, Broomfield can’t leave the highway authority without unanimous consent from Arvada and Jefferson County. They also allege that Broomfield hasn’t paid its share of the project costs since 2018 or handed over the land it promised to hand over under the 2010 deal.
“Broomfield has acted in bad faith,” the lawsuit alleges, “by standing by as Jefferson County and Arvada have spent millions of dollars of taxpayer money acquiring land for the parkway, all the while, Broomfield never intended to fulfill its contractual obligations.”