MoveColorado is a member of the Colorado Coalition #LetsGoColorado

“It really means that if you’re going to impact people’s quality of life, you need to make investment,” Brough said.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and a large coalition of groups from around Colorado will push to get a .62 percent, 20-year sales tax increase on this fall’s ballot, asking voters to fund billions of dollars worth of transportation infrastructure projects.

The ballot measure is meant to address a shortfall in transportation infrastructure investment that has become a pressing issue for business and civic leaders who are concerned that traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure will undercut Colorado’s economic growth.

“Our research says they’re ready,” said Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The coalition will pay for gathering at least 160,000 signatures, which is expected provide cushion enough to meet the state requirement for 98,492 current registered voters to get the measure on this fall’s ballot.

If successful, 45 percent of the revenue raised by the tax increase would back up to $6 billion in Colorado Department of Transportation bonds for state highways. Another 40 percent of the new tax revenue would be split between counties and municipalities around the state for transportation projects, and the remaining 15 percent dedicated to transit and multi-modal projects.

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A bipartisan statewide coalition of business leaders, mayors and transportation advocates announced Friday it will gather signatures to place a 0.62 percent sales tax increase to invest in Colorado’s transportation system on the November ballot.

“This coalition has been working together for years to secure badly needed funding for transportation. And after another legislative session that failed to meaningfully address the issue, it has become clear that the citizens of Colorado have no choice now but to take this issue into our own hands,” said Mike Fitzgerald, president and CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. “As a business community we never want to see taxes increased unless it is absolutely necessary. We are now convinced that it is absolutely necessary.”

Coalition members highlight the decades-long revenue shortage for transportation combined with population growth as driving the need for new revenue.

“Maintenance and construction for our state highways are funded by a gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in over 25 years,” said Tony Milo with the Colorado Contractors Association. “When you combine that with population growth, we are spending less per driver on our highways today than we were in the 1990s.”

According to state budget documents, the Colorado Department of Transportation currently has a $9 billion backlog of projects across the state. In addition to funding for state highways, a key component of the coalition’s plan would provide funding for local projects across the state as chosen by local communities, including alternative means of transit.

“It’s about time we make a serious investment in our transportation infrastructure. Our roads are literally crumbling beneath our feet,” said Christian Reece, executive director of Club 20, an association of counties on the Western Slope. “This initiative is a responsible and modest approach to provide an immediate solution before our infrastructure goes from bad to worse.”

“Coalition members said they decided on sales tax to provide the new revenue, in part, because tourists, conventions and other visitors to the state will help pay a significant part of the tax. Every year 80 million people visit Colorado and use our roads; this approach will allow them to leave a little something behind to help us out,” said Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Coalition members said they would begin circulating petitions immediately.

Quotes from key coalition partners from across the state follow:

Jackie Millet, Republican Mayor of Lone Tree:

“Our transportation crisis in Colorado extends from our state highways to local roads. This ballot initiative is a modest increase in the state sales tax, and it will do a lot to address the congestion caused by growth.”

Dan Gibbs, Democratic Summit County Commissioner:

“If we’re ever going to solve our transportation problems, we need to move away from the gas tax and make sure our communities have the resources they need to meet demand. This initiative will have a big impact on our mountain communities and rural Colorado by directing more resources where it really matters: improving our streets, highways and transit options so it’s easier and safer to get around.”

Cathy Shull, Executive Director of Pro 15:

“Our failing transportation infrastructure isn’t just a Denver problem, it’s a problem that affects every part of Colorado. This ballot initiative was developed by leaders from Fort Morgan to Grand Junction. This is a bipartisan solution that will repair and improve our infrastructure in a way that benefits every part of the state.”

Joe Kiely, Ports to Plains Alliance:

“Colorado’s economy directly depends on a reliable statewide transportation system. This ballot proposal addresses both local and regional problems across our state so that Colorado maintains its competitive edge.”

Cindy Dozier, Republican Hinsdale County Commissioners:

“Colorado has been underfunding transportation for decades because we’re using a funding source that just can’t keep up while the need continues to grow. Speaking as a rural county commissioner, I believe the only way we’ll be guaranteed that our local roads and highways will get the repairs they need is by going to the ballot and dedicating new revenue to this critical priority.”

Margaret Bowes, Executive Director of the I-70 Coalition:

“It is absolutely necessary we make a meaningful investment in our roads. Our failure to invest over the last 25 years is impacting our quality of life and costing us money in traffic congestion delays, traffic accidents and damage to vehicles, lost gas efficiencies and it’s only getting worse.”

Rachel Richards, Democratic Pitkin County Commissioner:

“We need a statewide transportation system that works for rural and urban Colorado. The state highways and local roads that connect our communities and support regional economies are in dire need of repair. This initiative goes a long way toward addressing those problems and provides the flexibility that local communities need to address their challenges

by Denver Post

“The only problem is the Colorado Department of Transportation doesn’t have the money to start construction.”

Westbound express toll lane also part of proposal

Colorado transportation officials on Tuesday released plans costing up to $550 million to improve the westbound Interstate 70 bottleneck at Floyd Hill by adding an additional lane and even building a tunnel to keep cars moving.

The only problem is the Colorado Department of Transportation doesn’t have the money to start construction.

The proposal, though, gives CDOT a jumping off point to address the growing congestion problems along the I-70 mountain corridor from Denver to ski country.

CDOT says it has been working with local elected officials and stakeholders to develop the concept unveiled this week, which they say would accommodate more westbound travelers.

State and federal highway officials have been working with a team of stakeholders, including representatives from Idaho Springs, Clear Creek County, Jefferson County, ski resorts and the general public, since signing a “2011 Record of Decision” about the I-70 mountain corridor and the Floyd Hill study area, said Stacia Sellers, CDOT communications manager.

The plan calls for I-70 to be reconfigured with simplified curves, bridges and walls to improve line of sight and driver safety. That would come in the form of a tunnel at the bottom of the interstate near Idaho Springs and a widening of the westbound lanes from two to three.

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“As they say, if this were easy… The reality is that we have ignored infrastructure for too long. For years, infrastructure advocates have been squeezed out of the budget in favor of other priorities. The issue has now become dire. Our lack of infrastructure is costing money, putting safety at risk, and will eventually stifle our economy.”

Think of Tony Milo as Colorado’s Lorax. Only, instead of speaking for the trees like the fabled Dr. Seuss character, Milo advocates relentlessly for the state’s infrastructure.

As executive director of the Colorado Contractors Association, he is the point man in the perennial push for more funding to highways, bridges and other wide-ranging public works. And almost since taking the helm at the association in 2005, Milo has been forewarning policy makers of the long-term consequences of letting backlogged upgrades to our transportation grid languish on the drawing board.

The transportation-funding compromise hammered out by lawmakers in the closing days of the 2018 legislature is a good start in chipping away at that backlog, Milo tells us in today’s Q&A. But it’s just that — a start — and he says much more far-reaching policy initiatives are needed to truly tackle transportation.

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by Colorado Politics

None of the Republicans in the state House supported it earlier in the day, but Senate Republicans collected a unanimous vote Thursday night to send a bill to the governor that will eventually put almost $3 billion into the state’s beleaguered transportation system.

Image of Denver and busy street with traffic leading to the city.

Senate Bill 1 puts $495 million into roads, bridges and alternative transportation this year, $150 million next year then allows the state to borrow $2.3 billion to be repaid over the next 20 years, tapping the state general fund for $122.6 million a year. Granted, only about $50 million a year is new money, with the rest coming from previous legislation and existing tax dollars that go to the state highway department.

But it sounds good to advocates to finally see a legislative commitment to quick cash and ongoing money to a state transportation system the Colorado Department of Transportation says is in need of $9 billion in the next decade and $20 billion over the next 20 years.

”While the funding provided to transportation is short of where we could have been, politics is the art of the possible,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, who represents Fix Colorado Roads, the coalition driving the funding discussion for years. “Since the beginning, we’ve advocated from that point of view. Today, Senate Bill 1 passed a split legislature and is what was possible this year.

“And for that, we are grateful.”

Negotiations haven’t been this fruitful in recent memory, however you add up the money.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, has been at the forefront of negotiations for the past two sessions, Last year, Republicans on a Senate committee killed House Bill 1242, which Grantham co-sponsored, that would have asked Colorado votes to pass a half-cent sales tax. The compromise was announced to reporters in his office on Monday, with House Speaker Crisanta Duran at his side.

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by Colorado Public Radio

After years of staying in their separate lanes, Colorado’s top lawmakers may have found a way to merge together on a big issue: how to pay for the state’s transportation and infrastructure needs.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Republican Sen. President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, announced a deal Monday that opens the door to asking voters for new transportation bonds. It would also allow for a surge of spending on transportation projects over the next two years.

“This is not what would be the ideal for either one of us,” said Grantham, nodding to Duran. “We are in a split legislature and sometimes that’s when we do our best work, when we have to look at the other side and come up with solutions that fall somewhere in between.”

Duran agreed the plan proved lawmakers could overcome political divisions.

“We are continuing to show through our actions that we can bring people together in Colorado and that we can get things done for the people of our state,” said Duran.

The plan includes $495 million for transportation projects this fiscal year and $150 million next fiscal year.

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“It is time to solve Colorado’s transportation crisis. For too long, the issue has been avoided or ignored, while our state has seen massive population growth. Due to our growth without action, we are seeing more traffic accidents, more congestion and growing costs to doing business in our state. That’s why we are writing you to urge you to pass Senate Bill 1 – the compromise transportation funding measure that passed the State Senate with a unanimous 35-0 vote.” from letter sent by two dozen business groups House and Senate leaders Tuesday

by Colorado Politics

With a week left in the legislative session, Colorado House Democrats are poised to introduce a major overhaul to a transportation bill that passed the state Senate unanimously more than a month ago.

The change is significant. Rather than asking for permission to borrow $3.5 billion and repay it with $250 million a year from the state budget, as the Senate agreed to, House Democrats want a pay-as-they-go proposal that doesn’t threaten money for education.

Democrats are concerned that locking in that amount of money to repay bonds each year would mean less money for schools and social services in an economic downturn.

“We felt that Senate Bill 1, as it currently is, is like buying a new house without getting a new job first and saving for it,” said Rep. Faith Winter, D-Thornton, chair of the House Transportation Committee. “We’re mortgaging our future.

“This (amendment) is a responsible way to show the voters in the state of Colorado and everyone else involved that we care about transportation.”

The Democrats’ amendment would use $495 million already set aside in this year’s budget, then pledge $166 million from the budget for each of the next five years. But lawmakers would not be bound by the agreement.

The state also wouldn’t borrow any money under the proposal.

Sandra Hagen Solin, a government relations strategist at law firm Kutak Rock who leads the statewide business coalition called Fix Our Roads, said the proposal means the state can’t invest in major projects such as widening interstates, which is a priority for those stuck in traffic jams on interstates 25 and 70.

“With growth in the economy this year, we’ve got the necessary funds to have an aggressive strategy for transportation,” she said.

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“BUILD transportation grants will help communities revitalize their surface transportation systems while also increasing support for rural areas to ensure that every region of our country benefits,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a replacement for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, a program popular with state and local agencies.

On April 20, DOT published a notice of funding opportunity for $1.5 billion through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development discretionary grant, or BUILD, program.

Although BUILD would replace the TIGER program, the two bear some similarities. Like TIGER grants, BUILD money would be awarded on a competitive basis to local or regional entities. The funding would support roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or intermodal transportation.

“BUILD transportation grants will help communities revitalize their surface transportation systems while also increasing support for rural areas to ensure that every region of our country benefits,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

According to a notice on DOT’s website, applicants will be assessed on the basis of safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, innovation, partnership and additional nonfederal revenue for future transportation infrastructure investments.

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Lawmakers heard from industry groups during a hearing Wednesday to examine how small businesses view the infrastructure crisis.

The House Small Business Committee held the hearing with lawmakers looking to address severe issues facing the national infrastructure system. The hearing explored the challenges that small businesses are facing as a result, and how they could be addressed, with a specific focus on surface transportation and access to broadband.

There has been a growing concern over the crumbling roadways, bridge collapses, and failing pipes in our national infrastructure system. The problem impacts both families and businesses across the country, but there is hope with lawmakers looking to address it.
“Our nation faces an infrastructure investment deficit of $2 trillion over the next 10 years,” Marsia Geldert-Murphey, the chief operating officer at W. James Taylor, Inc., said during the hearing. “The investment gap has led to deficient roads and bridges, water main breaks, inadequate ports and inland waterways, late flights, and so much more. Failing to close this infrastructure investment gap brings serious economic uncertainty for small businesses.”

Geldert-Murphey testified on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The hearing included speakers from several industry groups which represent small businesses in construction, engineering, and other sectors needed to improve infrastructure. Kevin Beyer spoke on behalf of The Rural Broadband Association.

“There appears to be a widespread consensus that broadband is essential infrastructure, and critical to life in modern American,” Beyer, who also works as the general manager for Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, said. “The public policy question that remains is how to best ensure that the service is available, affordable, sufficient, and sustainable in high-cost rural areas that don’t attract private investments on their own.”

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Pueblo Chieftain

DENVER — A broad coalition of Colorado business groups has endorsed a $5 billion transportation measure moving through the state legislature, boosting its chances of passage even as top Democrats continued to express “reservations” with the plan.

But while political hurdles remain, Monday’s announcement eliminated a key roadblock that stymied political negotiations at the divided legislature for much of the year.

“What you see is an incredible amount of unanimity,” Mike Kopp said, the president and CEO of Colorado Concern at a morning press conference. “…Senate Bill 1 is historic. This is the largest transportation bill in 20 years.”

Previously, business groups including Colorado Concern and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce had been pushing competing plans to raise taxes to pay for the state’s infrastructure needs, creating an impasse that promised to clutter the November ballot with proposals. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers for months have been pushing a plan of their own to borrow up to $3.5 billion against existing state revenue, over the objections of Democrats who insist that the question of new taxes should be sent to voters.

In late March, the state Senate struck a bipartisan deal, voting unanimously to approve a bill that would set aside $250 million annually for transportation over 20 years. If voters agree to bond against it, that amount would cover the $5 billion needed to repay the proposed borrowing costs. If not, the money would be transferred to the state highway fund for road maintenance. The compromise would also delay sending voters a referendum to issue the bonds until 2019, a concession from Republicans that effectively gives business groups the chance to go to the ballot for a potential tax hike this November.

“From the Chamber’s point of view, I don’t believe the state has enough revenue to solve everything we need to solve on transportation,” Kelly Brough said, the Denver Metro Chamber president. But it’s still not clear what tax hike — if any — voters will get the chance to consider. Brough’s group has filed initiatives to raise sales taxes by varying amounts, while Colorado Concern and others prefer to raise vehicle ownership taxes to pay for road needs.

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