Today’s Denver Post outlines the decision Colorado voters will make this year regarding much needed transportation infrastructure funding.
The piece shows how only Proposition 110 offers the guaranteed, sustainable funding source to address years of transportation neglect.
Colorado voters’ transportation options, broken down. Hint: It’s not as simple as whether to raise taxes.
Competing “Fix Our Damn Roads” and larger tax measure reflect longstanding debate
Should the tax pass, CDOT officials say their current plans call for using their share as well as the already planned borrowing to fund a $7 billion project list around the state, with another $1.5 billion paying for paving work and $500 million set aside as a reserve fund.
Colorado voters’ choice between two wildly differing transportation-funding initiatives this fall could effectively settle a longstanding debate over how to address one of the biggest challenges posed by the state’s explosive growth.
Or the outcome could signal even more pitched battles ahead.
The decision in the Nov. 6 election largely will rest on whether voters believe that transportation needs in the mountains, the Eastern Plains and urban areas are pressing enough to justify a significant sales tax increase pushed by business interests and local officials throughout the state. If approved, the 0.62 percentage-point hike would raise a projected $20 billion over two decades, to be split among state highways, local projects and transit initiatives. The state could borrow up to $6 billion upfront.
The competing measure, offered up by the conservative-libertarian Independence Institute in Denver, would mandate a more modest one-time boon strictly for high-priority road projects. And the initiative would leave it to legislators to figure out how to repay up to $3.5 billion in authorized bonds from the $29 billion annual state budget.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has created a Factual Summary of 2018 Transportation Ballot Propositions (110 & 109). The summary considers for each proposition:
Do not fall for the “Something for Nothing” proposition.
When you open your November ballot, you’ll find two issues asking you to vote on funding for road projects.
Proposition 110 Dedicates Sales Tax to Roads, Bridges & Multimodal Projects to Address Congestion, Safety
The statewide coalition Let’s Go, Colorado today announced that its proposed comprehensive, bipartisan transportation funding solution was certified for the November General Election ballot by the Colorado Secretary of State as Proposition 110.
“Coloradans deserve a solution to our growing transportation crisis that is guaranteed to generate the revenue to address long-neglected projects in every corner of our state,” said Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet, a Republican. “Proposition 110 is the only measure on this year’s ballot that can fund the transportation safety, capacity and mobility improvements that our citizens and businesses are demanding. Plus, it empowers local communities to tackle our toughest transportation challenges. Proposition 110 is the answer Colorado needs.”
“The Western Slope has been promised transportation solutions for many years, but the reality is that the state funds aren’t there – and won’t be there without the common-sense solution that Proposition 110 offers,” said Christian Reece, Executive Director of Club 20, a non-partisan advocacy coalition for Western Colorado. “We can’t tie our economic future to more promises or proposals driven by narrow ideology. We need a solution that truly addresses transportation problems that have lingered for years, and that requires new, dedicated revenue. It’s basic math and basic common sense. Club 20 strongly supports Proposition 110.”
Underscoring the need for a dedicated and sustainable source of transportation funding, Governor John Hickenlooper has endorsed the proposed transportation sales tax initiative — and said he will advocate for it throughout the fall campaign season.
“One of the thorniest challenges Colorado faces is to dedicate the funds everyone agrees are needed to modernize and expand our transportation system,” the governor said. “Democrats and Republicans agree that we must break the status quo. This is the right solution that provides the reliable flow of funds that will jumpstart us toward real progress. I’m ready to go to work to convince voters that we must pass this initiative this year.”
Capitol Rally Marks Major Campaign Milestone
Monday, August 6th, marked a major milestone for the drive to give Colorado a predictable, guaranteed funding source for our overburdened transportation system. Nearly 200,000 Coloradans signed our petitions saying they’re ready to make a small sales tax investment to yield big dividends for neglected projects on our roads, bridges and other transportation assets.
A bipartisan group of elected officials along with supporters from business, labor and civic groups rallied at the State Capitol to urge voters to back this strong and sustainable solution to Colorado’s transportation crisis.
“If we want to address the crisis on our roads, Colorado needs a sustainable flow of dollars to make good intentions about transportation become actual roads and bridges,” said Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, a Democrat who is one of the formal proponents of the measure. “We know that Colorado lacks the funding needed to give our citizens and businesses the transportation system they need and deserve.”
“Our citizens and local businesses are clamoring for congestion relief. It is a top priority for local elected officials. This plan dedicates 40 percent of funding to local projects identified by local communities. It finally addresses the needs that have been talked about for years,” said Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet, a Republican.
“A safe and reliable system of roads and bridges are vital for our farmers and ranchers – and the economic benefit they provide for Colorado. A dedicated sales tax for transportation guarantees that the long-overdue projects in rural Colorado will finally become a reality,” said Chad Vorthmann, Executive Vice President of the Colorado Farm Bureau.
Denver drivers are certainly familiar with the sad state of the city’s roads. Congestion slows down daily commutes, and Denver’s potholes are notoriously common — and large.
A new study highlights the effects of shoddy road conditions, which are costing motorists more than $2,300 per year in the form of “higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes, and congestion-related delays.” TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group, put together the report, which reveals just how dire the crisis actually is. According to TRIP, 40 percent of roads in Denver are in poor condition, meaning that the pavement is “uncomfortable with frequent bumps or depressions.” These roads, in addition to sucking money from drivers, are also costing lives, wasting time and potentially pushing business away.
“Lives are on the line. Our future is on the line,” said J. Skyler McKinley, director of public relations and government affairs at AAA Colorado, at a press conference at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce today, June 28.
Nearly 400 motorists were killed in accidents in Denver between 2014 and 2016. According to the TRIP study, the lack of certain roadway features, such as lane markings, rumble strips and guardrails, “are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.”
Less tragic but still painful for Denver commuters is the time spent stuck in traffic. On average, they lose 52 hours annually to congestion.
The $7.1 billion annual cost is broken down into $3.1 billion in congestion-related costs, $2.1 billion in costs related to crashes and other safety issues and $1.9 billion in vehicle-operating costs.
The average motorist will lose $2,306 per year to car repairs and to time lost in congestion.
Those same motorists will spend 52 hours per year stuck in traffic jams.
Denver Business Journal
Backers of a proposed sales-tax hike to fund transportation needs latched immediately onto the study from TRIP, a Washington D.C.-based transportation research organization that advocates for safety and increased efficiency. Mike Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership, said after a news conference that the research clearly show that more work is needed than can be funded with the state’s existing resources.
Rocky Moretti, TRIP director of policy and research, said his organization, which is funded by a coalition of transportation advocates from across the country, said his organization decided to dig into Colorado’s roadway issues both because it is a growing state and because it’s a state that has grappled in recent years with how to pump more investment into its infrastructure. The Colorado Legislature this year allocated $645 million in new funding to roads and transit and approved asking voters in 2019 for permission to sell $2.3 billion worth of bonds for transportation — but only if neither of two initiatives from outside groups passes on this November’s statewide ballot.
Among the many numbers that TRIP compiled for the study, one that jumped out the most to Moretti was the fact that vehicle miles traveled in Colorado grew 11 percent between 2013 and 2016 — the sixth-greatest rate of growth in the country. That demonstrated both the state’s economic vitality that is attracting a growing population and the urgency that is needed to fix roads before their upkeep falls too far behind the needs of its citizenry.
“We clearly see there’s an ongoing need in Colorado that has yet to be addressed,” Moretti said. “So, we’re happy to educate residents about those challenges.”
Learn more: https://www.letsgocolorado.com/
Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Diane Schwenke said her biggest concern is if the measures fail and larger cities around the state decide to pass their own taxes to go toward roads in their jurisdictions.
Grand Junction Sentinel
Michael Lewis, who was appointed in November as the executive director of the state Department of Transportation, spoke remotely during the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly luncheon, providing an overview of the state’s road systems and outlining some possible solutions should potential initiatives make the November ballot and be approved by voters.
“We have the opportunity this fall to address the issue for the next 20 years,” said Lewis, who was slated to be at the luncheon in person until his flight was canceled earlier in the day. “It’s a great opportunity.”
The 45-minute presentation outlined the potentials for the “Fix Our Damn Roads” initiative and another that would increase sales tax across the state by 0.62 percent to pay for transportation. Backers of both measures are in the process of gathering signatures and must turn in enough by August to get on the ballot.
The “Fix Our Damn Roads” initiative would allow the state to increase its debt by $3.5 billion and pay for transportation projects out of the general fund. It is being led by the Independence Institute. Initiative 153, the sales tax, is led by a coalition of businesses. When asked why the effort is geared toward raising sales tax instead of the gas tax that already funds road projects, Lewis said the gas tax tends to poll poorly and more energy-efficient cars could make an increase less effective.
Lewis also discussed Senate Bill 1, which was recently signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper and commits $495 million in 2018 with a promise of an additional $150 million next year to road projects. It would also add a potential ballot measure for roads in 2019 should neither of the two initiatives pass in 2018.
From Colorado Politics
This was supposed to be the year Colorado’s legislature at long last did something — something big — about our state’s aging and bottlenecked transportation grid and its backlogged list of highway projects.
Yet, when the gavel came down on the 2018 session in May, it was wincingly evident lawmakers had done little more than apply a bandage.
Sure, epic promises were made and endless debate was taken up by lawmakers who had labored days and some nights on a transportation compromise to suit both parties. And still, the highest praise that the finished product, Senate Bill 1, was able to garner was that it represented a good first step.
The upshot: Once again, future legislative sessions have their work cut out for them on this never-ending issue. And the same goes for Colorado’s next governor, whom voters will elect this November.
Which is why we felt this was an opportune point — as voting gets underway in a crowded gubernatorial primary election — to ask the eight contenders in both parties what they would do to address the state’s transportation woes.
We asked each candidate to shape up a commentary (only GOP candidate Greg Lopez didn’t respond to our request), and their input spans the known spectrum from more tax dollars to cutting waste.