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Colorado’s Director of Transportation steps down

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT COMMUTER STUDENTS?

Shailen P. Bhatt, the Executive Director of Colorado’s Department of Transportation has decided to step down from his position to lead a transportation advocacy organization in his new role as president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

In his place, Mike Lewis, the department’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer, will take over as interim director.

He is in charge of leading the department in planning for and addressing Colorado’s transportation needs. Bhatt oversees 3,300 employees statewide, has an annual budget of approximately $1.4 billion, and is committed to servicing all his customers with a stress-free and convenient system of transportation.

Some of his jobs include maintaining repairs on major highways, maintaining bridges, snow removal, and managing federal grants for safe driving programs. Under his leadership, Bhatt purchased an autonomous vehicle to help protect work zone crews from distracted drivers, opened the Express Lanes on U.S. 36, Interstate 70 and Interstate 25—which shortened travel time by 20 to 50 percent—and secured funding to accelerate improvements on I-25 between Fort Collins and Johnstown, as well as in between Castle Rock and Monument.  

So, what does this mean for commuter students? The University’s main concern has to do with maintaining low-cost transit for students on campus. “CU Denver has an agreement with RTD for students and staff to obtain affordable transportation using light rail and bus passes, which are included in student fees each semester,”  Mitchell DeVito, a representative for Commuter Services at Campus Resources said. “Bhatt stepping down as Executive Director will not have any significant impact on CU Denver’s agreement with RTD. We plan to continue our agreement without any adjustments.”

With Bhatt stepping down and Lewis taking over his role, there is not enough information yet to gauge what changes Lewis might implement from his new position. Students who commute, hope that their needs will be heard because it is a part of their everyday lives. “I’m from Vancouver, Washington and the public transportation system has fallen into a cycle of disrepair,” Violet DeSnyder, an animations major, said. “People don’t want to use it because it’s in terrible condition and because they don’t want to use it they don’t vote to fund it, so it remains in that state of disrepair. It’s a vicious cycle, so when I came to Colorado I was relieved to have such a well-maintained public transportation system. I hope it stays that way.”

“I didn’t even know we had a director of transportation, but as a commuter student, I would just want there to be less traffic and cheaper parking,” CU Denver student Elizabeth Fritz said.

With that being said, many anticipate seeing what changes and plans Mike Lewis has for the future of Colorado’s transportation system. Students will start to see how his actions might benefit students across campus when he becomes the interim director next year.

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