By David Accomazzo, STATE BILL COLORADO
DENVER — The James Merrick State Parking Facility, the state’s prized 199,400 square-foot paradigm of premium parking construction just south of the Capitol, offers Capitol Complex employees 660 spaces and a central hub for parking amidst their daily hustle and flow between the various state buildings that run Colorado’s government.
Unfortunately for citizens trying to participate in the legislative process, the parking garage, which won an award for excellence in public parking structures, is exclusively for state employees — adding to the already-high cost of civic participation in Colorado.
More than 80 responses to a State Bill Colorado survey sent to registered lobbyists and trade group representatives showed how much of an inconvenience Capitol complex parking becomes when dealing with it on a regular, or even irregular, basis.
Parking is, according to one respondent, “a problem that is only getting worse each year” that “stymies the public’s opportunity to attend hearings and provide input.”
“Getting my members to testify is hard enough so it’s a hassle for them to search for parking. Two-hour parking surrounding the Capitol is totally inadequate,” another respondent wrote.
“Citizens who don’t go to the Capitol on a regular basis find this very [frustrating] and inhibits them from participating in the process,” wrote another.
Completed in 2006, the Merrick parking garage is reserved for state employees, who either personally or through their agencies pay $95 a month to $110 a month for covered parking.
The garage cost just under $9.5 million and generates $600,000 a year in fees, said Julie Postlethwait, public information officer for the Department of Personnel & Administration. The department expects the building to bring in money for the state once the loan is paid off in 2025, Postlethwait said.
In addition, the state also reserves a block and a half of metered street-side spaces for legislative use during the session. The meters, on the 1300 block of Sherman Street and the west side of the 1400 block of Grant Street, are closer to the Capitol than any other parking meters.
These additional spaces seemed excessive to one lobbyist who responded to State Bill’s survey.
“The legislature is adding to the problem by blocking off street parking during the session,” the lobbyist wrote. “Given there’s a state parking garage there’s no reason to do this.”
The public parking lots surrounding the Capitol typically charge a flat rate of $8 to $12 a day, which adds up if you’re at the Capitol four or five days a week.