Thoughts on the Future of Transportation in Colorado

Colorado Municipalities
April 2019

By Shoshana Lew, Colorado Department of Transportation executive director

Future of Transportation

It is a tremendous honor to have been selected by Gov. Jared Polis to be the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and to serve alongside the more than 3,000 employees committed to making your travels safe every day. The responsibility is humbling and exciting, and together, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the lives of Coloradans through our transportation system.

As some of you know, I come to Colorado following a decade of public service both at the federal and state levels. I served as the chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and most recently, I was the chief operating officer of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. My work in state government focused on delivering comprehensive asset management planning to maximize the impact of investments on people’s lives. 

My experiences have impressed upon me the importance of careful stewardship of finite resources, be it taxpayer dollars or public lands, and the essential role we play in making balanced decisions, executing them well and with integrity, and ultimately delivering results for the people we serve. Every part of our daily lives depends upon our transportation system, from when we go to school, work, grocery store, or doctor’s office, to when we have goods delivered to our home. Issues such as access to good schools, health care options, jobs, and multimodal transportation options — some of Gov. Polis’ key priorities — are deeply interconnected.

We are in the midst of a dynamic moment for infrastructure and transportation. Forces such as population growth and movement, technology advancements, climate change, and the expanding need for mobility options place rapidly evolving pressures on the systems that connect people and economies. We see these forces coming to a head in Colorado, and as stewards of much of the state’s transportation network and budget, we have unique opportunities to prepare for them. CDOT must play a pivotal role in managing the transition toward a future that meets those demands. Our state’s success depends on CDOT’s stewardship and managing our infrastructure to maintain a state 

of good repair and tackling congestion both in the ground and in the air — all while we accommodate population growth with a system that expands multimodal options and integrates new technology in ways that make us more efficient. Our culture must focus on safety by continually striving to improve the safety of our system, both through the design and implementation of our investments, and to foster a safety culture both at work and in our communities. We must work together toward a more sustainable source of funding to keep our system both sustainable and safe for the people of Colorado. 

In the upcoming months, CDOT will focus on connecting people to places with new ways and modes of access. This will require a bold approach that blends transportation and mobility to deliver a stronger, more robust multimodal system, support electrification of the vehicle fleet to help reduce our environmental impact and the effects of climate change, and improve the safety of our transportation system to get everyone home alive every day. 


Expanding multimodal options means opening new connections. Whether along the populous Front Range in an urban center or in the suburbs, mountain communities, or rural areas, travel options are critical to create better access to goods, services, and jobs. Improving access across the state depends on CDOT’s strong partnerships with local and transit partners. Collectively, our focus is improving high-usage transit connectivity and providing services that fit different demographics. 

The vehicle fleet has begun an electric transformation, which protects and benefits our environment and climate, as well as providing new economic opportunities. CDOT is exploring ways to further support this electrification and the governor’s executive order by enhancing the charging infrastructure and working with local jurisdictions and planners to set realistic reduction goals and targets for incentive programs.

Saving lives is the most important thing CDOT does. Last year, Colorado lost more than 600 people on its roads. We must continue to focus on how we reduce crashes and the severity of those crashes, with practical, hard-hitting improvements to our infrastructure combined with better education of our drivers.

A critical element to successfully achieving our shared goals lies in coordination and collaboration with our local partners and governments. CDOT must understand the priorities for transportation in communities and how we can build together for a sustainable, efficient, and safe transportation system.

The measure of our success or failure is whether or not we can do these kinds of things safely, efficiently, and sustainably, not how many miles of road we pave or how much asphalt it takes. I look forward to working together with all of you to build and support transportation that provides better opportunity for all of Colorado.