Colorado ranks 11th in the nation for growth in miles traveled on its roadways in the past 25 years, and the Denver metro area ranks ninth in the country, according to a team of urban planning researchers.
The total miles driven in the state are expected to increase 59 percent by 2030, according to the report authored by Environment Colorado, the Urban Land Institute and the Sierra Club.
The report warned that if sprawling development along the Front Range continues to fuel growth, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases will be a waste of time.
"Colorado is poised to come out with vitally important goals for reducing the state's global warming pollution," said Pam Kiely, land-use advocate with Environment Colorado.
"Even the most stringent policies on reducing carbon emissions will be for naught if we don't start driving down our growth in vehicle emissions."
The report shows that Coloradans drove 47 million miles in 2005, reflecting a 114 percent increase since 1980.
Cutting emissions and car travel will require smart land use, new pollution technologies and energy conservation strategies on both the state and local levels, said Michael Leccese, executive director of the Urban Land Institute Colorado District Council.
"The research shows that people who live in compact green neighborhoods end up doing as much to lower greenhouse gas emissions as those who buy the most efficient hybrid cars," said Susan LeFever of the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter.
The group released its report on global warming on the same day Gov. Bill Ritter testified before a congressional panel in Washington, D.C., urging it to follow Colorado's lead and adopt a national renewable energy standard.
Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said Thursday she may introduce a bill next year that would link state transportation funding for local governments to responsible land-use planning.
The nine-county metro area drew heat from the Environmental Protection Agency this summer for possibly violating current air pollution rules. The state was directed to craft a plan showing the EPA how it will try to reduce air pollution.
Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, said cities and counties are taking into account the impact growth has on metro-area traffic when planning for development.
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