Move made after legislature fails to send funding measure to ballot

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce will pursue a ballot initiative next year to boost state transportation funding after the state legislature failed to send voters a measure to raise $3.5 billion for roads and transit this year.

“We ask everyone to help get this done,” president and CEO Kelly Brough told a crowd of more than 1,000 members gathered Wednesday for the chamber’s annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center.

Brough, in an interview after the announcement, said specifics are still being worked on with several other groups, but she hinted that the size and scope of the hard-fought but failed House Bill 1242 offers a starting point.

“We will wrestle with the question of how much revenue,” she said.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, sought to increase the statewide sales tax to 3.52 percent from 2.9 percent for 20 years to raise $3.5 billion for transportation funding.

But Senate conservatives, opposed in principle to tax increases and state spending priorities, contributed to the bill’s demise late in the session, ending what backers had hailed as a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats to address a critical need.

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MoveColorado would like to express its appreciation to Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham for his sponsorship of HB 17-1242.  His impassioned words prior to the final vote in the Senate Finance Committee were spot on.

“We do worry about the Balkanization of our state roads system. If Colorado Springs and then northern Colorado and other RTAs start passing their own [funding and development plans], there will be donut holes throughout the state that will be left out of improvements and will never get the improvements that are needed. Maybe that’s the preferred solution for some. It’s not for me… But that is the direction we are heading, and I think it’s a dangerous one…”

“I don’t know what would happen if it went to the people… But I know, without a doubt, that if it doesn’t get on the ballot, then it will definitely never pass. We only get so many bites at the apple — I’ve heard that a lot today — but if the number of bites we get is exactly zero, then zero is the result we will get.”

The session’s unloved grand bipartisan transportation measure, House Bill 1242, is dead, but the closing remarks — you might say the sickbed epitaph — delivered for the bill by Republican sponsor and Senate President Kevin Grantham are worth revisiting, especially given that, in the last week, and with a little more than a week left in the legislative session, three new transportation-related bills have been introduced.

Grantham spoke right before the bill was dispatched Tuesday by the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee, addressing the bill and its critics with words that might come to resonate beyond the committee hearing, even if in a ghostlike way, floating into remarks made years from now by lawmakers begging please for someone somehow to expand I-25 south of Castle Rock or to find a way to get their aged mother or father to the doctor in the middle of the day.

Grantham said running this year’s bill was a brave and bold move. He said the bill was unloved on the left and the right because drumming up billions for much-needed transportation upgrades in a politically and ideologically divided swing state was always going to be — and is long likely going to be — a slog.

He said people in the Capitol have to begin seeing transportation in new ways, and doing that is hard to do. He suggested that the long era of roads and more roads and single-occupancy privately owned vehicles no longer serves the population of the state the way it once did — and particularly the state’s younger and older populations — and that transit, meaning mass-transit, is popular with residents even if it’s unpopular with lawmakers.

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House Bill 1242 and Senate Bill 267, two top issues are on life support, their sponsors say

The Colorado legislative session’s top priority, a major transportation bill that seeks a tax hike to improve and expand highways, is unlikely to win approval this term.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican and one of the prime sponsors, announced Thursday morning that he does not have the votes to move it through the GOP-led chamber.

“At this point, we can’t count to three,” he said, describing the number of votes he needs to advance it through the Senate Finance Committee next week.

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NORTHGLENN, CO – APRIL 1: Cars drive northbound on I-25 with the new express toll lane, indicated by the double white line, on April 1, 2016, in Northglenn, Colorado. CDOT officially opened the I-25 North express toll lane on Monday. Construction is still underway on a concrete sound barrier wall that runs alongside the interstate. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post)

Republican State Senate President Kevin Grantham is a co-sponsor of the most significant transportation bill in Colorado for a number of years Senator Grantham gives a great overview of the bill as it enters the Colorado Senate for consideration after passing the Colorado House. Thank you to Senator Grantham and Senate Committee on Transportation Chair Randy Baumgartner for their leadership on this bill.

Here is the latest installment in the ongoing effort to keep you informed about critical issues here at Dome to Home. One of the most pressing issues is transportation funding as addressed in HB 17-1242. I wanted to give you the facts and rationale behind it and then you can decide for yourself whether you like this proposal or not.

As of right now the bill has passed the final vote in the House with bipartisan support and is on its way to the Senate Transportation committee. Several amendments were passed which goes to show that this bill is a work in progress and amendments mean opinions about solutions are being explored and accepted. I’m especially pleased with Representative Jon Becker’s amendment in Transportation committee to eliminate the FASTER vehicle registration late fees which is burdensome, especially to rural citizens. There was a lot of testimony on this bill and I’m very grateful for that and am looking forward to this discussion as the bill progresses.

About the bill itself, it is all about consent of the people, transparency, accountability, and deliberate, purposeful spending. This bill is not the end of the conversation but the beginning of a more difficult conversation with new ideas and many hard discussions. This bill is not perfect and has many things that both sides find disagreeable if not unacceptable. It is a work in progress and gives us a framework for discussion and the possibility of actually getting something through two diverse chambers, signed by the Governor, and approved ultimately by the voters of Colorado. We could have proposed a bill or series of bills that could swiftly pass the Senate and then promptly die in a House committee. That is easy. But if we actually want to see real change for your transportation needs, if we want to see something of substance done, then we have to do the difficult things, the tough things, to make a difference. That is why I have proposed this legislation which I believe is our best chance of success to solve the infrastructure and traffic issues seen and felt by each and every one of us.

So what is this bill? First and foremost this is a ballot question to be voted on by Coloradans. It’s important to me that the citizens of this state get a say not only on whether they will increase their taxes but also on where their money is being spent. It is important also that we remain constitutionally compliant in that we ask for your permission to do this. This proposal keeps faith with taxpayers by complying with both the letter and spirit of TABOR.

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Following eight months of negotiations, Colorado legislative leaders on Wednesday introduced a 20-year transportation-funding bill that would ask voters to approve a sales tax hike to generate some $677 million per year for highway and transit projects — without making significant cuts to existing state revenues.

Observers, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, quickly referred to House Bill 1242 as a starting point, saying they expect details about everything from the size of the tax hike, to the allocation of new revenues, to be up for debate in the two months that the Legislature has left in its 2017 session.

 

But House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, both expressed gratitude at finding a compromise they believe can muster support of their ideologically differing caucuses before they take their case to voters.

“We want to make sure that roads and bridges and transportation options across the state are adequately funded for generations to come,” Duran said in an interview with multiple news outlets shortly after introducing the bill just past 5 p.m.

She will co-sponsor HB 1242 in her chamber along with Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, the Steamboat Springs Democrat who chairs the House Transportation and Energy Committee that will hear the proposal first.

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Shaun Egan

“When we speak about our state’s transportation needs, policymakers usually mention the additional time and cost to travelers and business. While these statistics demonstrate a critical need for additional investment in our transportation infrastructure, they fail to capture the highest cost of our inaction, which is the loss of life or serious injuries to people on our highways. While being late for work or delayed while traveling to ski is annoying, they pale in comparison to a loved one not coming home.”

Greeley Tribune
January 19th

The high price of inaction on our infrastructure is 599. That is the number of people who died on Colorado’s roadways in 2016.

Highway fatalities and how they grew in number in the past year were part of a broad-based advertising campaign by the Colorado Department of Transportation to make the public aware of the human toll associated with highway accidents and the importance of safe driving practices.

While this campaign may have been effective in getting our attention, the number of fatalities and injuries on our highways unfortunately rose. In fact, highway fatalities in 2016 were at their highest level since 2005 and have risen by over 34 percent since 2011.

What is the cause of this increase? Many would point rightfully to distracted driving, driving under the influence, and speeding as leading causes of highway fatalities. In looking at those factors, many view the rise in highway fatalities as an enforcement issue. One other important consideration, though that rarely gets mentioned, is how our state’s lack of investment in our transportation system may be contributing to this increase.

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Shaun Egan is the President and CEO of Iron Woman Construction, which is company that is involved in transporting construction materials and environmental consulting. Egan also serves as the vice chairman of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which represents over 600 companies involved in trucking in Colorado.

ColoradoPolitics.com
January 9, 2017

When the Colorado Legislature convenes Wednesday, no priority is higher than transportation, leaders, lobbyists and motorists agree.

They also agree the state’s top priorities are widening Interstate 25 north of Monument to Castle Rock and north of Denver to Fort Collins, as well as the I-70 corridor from Denver to the high country.

That’s where the traffic jams, crash fatalities and circulatory system of trade and commerce coexist. And along those routes are where votes are decided.

Colorado has nearly $9 billion in road and bridge needs, but only a proposed $1.4 billion annual budget that is consumed almost entirely fixing exiting roads and bridges, plowing snow and preventing rockslides and avalanches.

A much-discussed and widely supported plan to borrow $3.5 billion for signature projects and priorities would need to go to the ballot next November, if it is paid back with a direct increase in taxes. The Legislature during the next four months could agree to refer a bond issue to the ballot.

Besides how the tab gets paid, they will have to agree on how the cash gets spread around and which projects get built first. Those debates are yet to come in the Capitol, before voters get a crack at it.

Read on…

 

The Gazette
January 12, 2017

The Fix Colorado Roads coalition wasted no time following Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State of the State address to commend his call for actually fixing roads, including a nod of approval from Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

An email from group said mayors representing the congested north and south I-25 corridors commended the governor for addressing one of the state’s most vexing issues – fixing Colorado’s roads by finding reliable funding sources for transportation. “This is fundamental to accelerate critical transportation projects throughout the state, including the expansion of I-25,” the coalition said.

“The need for reliable transportation funding sources is supported by data. State demographers estimate that Colorado’s population will soar to 7.8 million by 2040, an increase of 2.3 million from 2015. This boom in population is outstripping the capacity of our existing roads and bridges, thus significantly increasing travel times while decreasing Coloradans’ quality of life,” the group’s email said.

The coalition’s email quoted Suthers as saying, “The free flow of commerce and alleviation of congestion between Denver and Colorado Springs on I-25 is essential to our citizen’s safety, quality of life and economic well-being. The time to act is now. Our challenge is shared by our friends in northern Colorado, along the I-70 Mountain corridor, and every part of our state. We stand with these leaders to find a statewide transportation funding and finance solution. I commend our policymakers and the governor, in working collaboratively to find a sustainable solution. They have my support.”

Read on…

…These are not luxuries. Infrastructure investments lead to jobs. And quality of life starts with a good job.

If we want to be the best, we need to lead in Colorado.

One way to get started is right before us.

Talking about the hospital provider fee on the second floor of the Capitol is about as popular as the Oakland Raiders.

BUT it’s a sensible way to solve some of our problems, though it won’t solve all of them.

Let’s see if we can take a fresh look at the hospital provider fee itself, and see if it can be modified as a vehicle to control costs, to build more transparency and accountability and better serve rural clinics and hospitals.

We can free up the money we already have, from existing revenue, to begin building the infrastructure we need to support our growth.

Over the next decade, Colorado has $9 billion dollars of unmet transportation needs, and that need will only grow.

Voters are tired of us kicking the can down the road, because they know it’s going to land in a pothole.

In our neighboring state of Utah, infrastructure investment is a priority.

Utah has about half as many people as Colorado but invests four times what we do to expand their road capacity every year.

It’s economics 101: smart investments in infrastructure create jobs and strengthen the economy.

Two years ago, on the west steps of the Capitol, we said it was time for a continuous third lane on I-25 from Wyoming to New Mexico.

This past summer, working with local officials, we secured $15 million in federal funds to help build a new express lane from Fort Collins to Loveland.

And just last week, CDOT leveraged funding to start the planning process to add a third lane from Castle Rock to Monument.

This means that the required planning will be completed in under three years.

These are good first steps, but the cost of construction to bring I-25 into the modern world is still over $2 billion.

That’s more than CDOT’s total annual budget, which is almost entirely dedicated to maintenance.

We’re already squeezing every penny out of our transportation revenue but efficiencies can only get us so far.

With the gas tax unchanged since 1992, more fuel efficient cars and normal inflation: it’s basic math. It’s a funding problem.

We’ve had this debate for too long.

If talk could fill potholes we’d have the best roads in the country.

But the General Fund cannot adequately support the demands of core government services and capacity improvements in transportation.

There are some who believe we can pay for our infrastructure needs through cuts alone. But that can only happen if we demand major sacrifices from Coloradans.

If that’s what you want, introduce that bill. Make that case.

Tell us who loses healthcare or what schools have to close to add a mile of highway.

Coloradans share our desire to make these investments.

They know that our future economy demands a modern infrastructure.

Let’s examine all our options. Whether it’s new revenue, simplifying or replacing old tax streams, or a combination of both.

We can find a solution that clearly spells out to Coloradans exactly what they’re getting and how the money will be spent.

And how that funding can benefit rural and urban communities, support local needs and statewide projects, and balance transit options with highway expansions.

Lincoln once said: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts…and beer.”

Let’s decide what we take to voters in November, and let’s make our case to the public…”

Colorado leaders advocate for Transportation Infrastructure

Denver, CO – Today, leaders around the state commended legislators for their commitment to transportation and urged them to find a long-term, sustainable funding source for infrastructure across Colorado. In opening day speeches, legislators from both sides of the aisle acknowledged and prioritized the urgent need to improve and invest in Colorado’s transportation infrastructure.

“Transportation is our priority this year because it is absolutely critical to job growth and a healthy economy. Our members are committed to working with legislators to ensure that we fund our transportation infrastructure,” said Loren Furman, Senior VP of State & Federal Government Relations, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI).

“Investing in transportation infrastructure in every corner of our state is important to maintaining a strong economy,” said Kelly Brough, President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. “Without such investments, we can’t maintain our current competitive advantage or improve our roads and bridges so our goods, workers, families, and visitors, can more easily move and contribute to our economy.”

“Colorado’s transportation infrastructure is in desperate need of maintenance and repair,” said Tony Milo, Executive Director, Colorado Contractors Association. “This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue, it’s a Colorado issue. For the future of our economy, for our safety, and for our quality of life, we must fund our transportation infrastructure.”

“Our citizens and businesses need, and deserve, safe and efficient roads and other multi-modal ways to get around their communities and the state. The Metro Mayors Caucus recognizes that if the State doesn’t address this issue, our quality of life will be harmed, and we will lose our competitive edge to states like Utah and Wyoming,” said Arvada Mayor Marc Williams, Chair, Metro Mayors Caucus Transportation Task Force.

Currently, the primary source of funding for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), is the state gas tax. Unfortunately, the gas tax – $.22 per gallon – does not increase annually with inflation and has not been increased since 1991. At the same time, cars have become more fuel efficient which has created a declining collection of revenues and a $9 billion list of needs for our transportation infrastructure.

“A comprehensive transportation solution provides choices for transit, pedestrians, and bikes,” said Will Toor, director of the transportation program at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). “Providing transportation choices to Coloradans is critical to the success of our transportation infrastructure and to our quality of life.”

“We are hopeful for a transportation funding solution that acknowledges transit needs in rural Colorado and around the state,” said Ann Rajewski, Executive Director, Colorado Association of Transit Agencies (CASTA).

“Transportation is the lifeblood for our state’s economy and our lack of investment in our infrastructure is adversely affecting business development and jobs within our state. Regardless of who you are, all of our citizens pay a steep and ever increasing price for the deficiencies in our transportation system whether it is in longer commute times, higher costs for goods, or sadly even in accidents as safety is compromised,” said Greg Fulton, Executive Director, Colorado Motor Carriers Association.

Since 1990, Colorado’s population has grown 53% while the lane miles on Colorado highways have only increased by 2%. This discrepancy has created an enormous sense of urgency to address the issue from communities around the state.

“Transportation is one of the top two issues most concerning to our business members and prospects, and having a reliable, efficient, multi-modal transportation system is essential to our economic success,” continued Dirk Draper, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corporation. “We can’t keep kicking this can down the road if we want to remain competitive as a state. The Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC has been working with numerous partners toward a solution and getting out of the zero-sum game of regions competing against each other for limited funding.”

“Transportation is not just a Denver-metro problem, its an issue in communities across Colorado and a priority for Progressive 15,” said Cathy Shull, Executive Director, Progressive 15. “Transportation infrastructure is absolutely critical to growing our economy, addressing safety issues, and providing options for our communities. We urge legislators to help us find a funding solution.”

“Colorado’s transportation infrastructure is literally crumbling beneath us, and we must identify funding solutions this session. CLUB 20 has been a fierce advocate on transportation issues for more than 60 years and we look forward to working with the legislature to get this problem solved,” said Christian Reece, Executive Director, CLUB 20.

“Colorado’s statewide transportation system requires statewide funding that can address the variety of needs in different parts of the system. Those needs include capacity, safety and maintenance, and rural needs may be different from urban needs, but all the parts must be kept in good condition to support our quality of life. We must all work together to provide sustainable funding that can create safe and efficient mobility throughout the state,” said Bob Stovall, Legislative Liaison, Action 22.

“Colorado’s safety and economic wellbeing is dependent on a robust infrastructure system. Investment in our transportation system is essential but it is no small task and we must work together. We applaud the Legislature’s courage to address transportation investment this session and we look forward to supporting their efforts,” Jeffery Kullman, President, Move Colorado.

“We applaud Senate President Grantham and House Speaker Duran for elevating the growing crisis in Colorado facing our transportation system and the need for a much greater investment now and in the years to come. Their leadership on this issue is indispensable because allowing the transportation status quo to idle in neutral threatens to throw our economy and our quality of life into reverse. Another year cannot go by without a solution to our transportation crisis,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, Fix Colorado Roads.

Over the next 120 days, follow the coalition on Twitter @TeamFixItCO and follow the progress of the transportation debate on Twitter at #FixItCO.

FixItCO is a coalition of business leaders, community organizations, environmental groups, and concerned citizens dedicated to finding a long-term, sustainable funding source for transportation.