ColoradoPolitics

“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.

Read on…

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.”

Read on…

DENVER — Monday, March 19, 2018 — The Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB) today released its quarterly economic and revenue forecast.

General Fund revenue is experiencing additional expected growth compared to the December 2017 revenue forecast. General Fund revenue is forecast to increase 12.9 percent in FY 2017-18. General Fund revenue is projected to increase at a modest 3.2 percent in FY 2018-19 due to lower employment growth in a tight labor market and as income tax revenue grows more slowly.

“Today’s economic forecast is good news and gives us a chance to put additional dollars toward transportation and education,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “Our proposal outlines a one-time $500 million allocation to the $9 billion transportation project list, $200 million to education and the remainder to address other pressing issues the legislature is considering.”

Along with the new revenue forecast, the OSPB delivered a letter to the Joint Budget Committee outlining Gov. Hickenlooper’s plan for allocating new revenue.

In FY 2018-19, the Governor’s plan calls for one-time infusions of $500 million to transportation and $200 million to K-12 education. Of the one-time money available, this leaves $96 million for other priorities under debate this legislative session.

In FY 2019-20, the Governor’s plan calls for allocations as follows:

  • Transportation: $150 million
  • K-12 Education: $100 million to the State Education Fund
  • Water Infrastructure: $15 million
  • State Buildings: $15 million for controlled maintenance or capital renewal
  • Affordable Housing: $10 million
  • Broadband: $10 million

Read on… 

Click here for the full Revenue and Economic Forecast from the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting.

“We’ve gained 800,000 people in the last decade and yet … we’re spending less now than we spent in 2007. If you have growth and a funding problem — you have trouble,” Hickenlooper said, adding that CDOT has $9 billion worth of needed projects, but doesn’t have the money to pay for them.

Colorado needs to invest more money in its transportation infrastructure — or risk the state’s growing economy choking on traffic congestion, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday.

Hickenlooper spoke at the 2017 Colorado Transportation Matters Summit, organized by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Transit Alliance.

The summit, which drew 1,000 people from the state’s agencies and businesses that work on highways and transit networks, was held at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center.

Colorado has invested in the state’s infrastructure and education in the past, and seen it pay off in the form of a booming economy and low unemployment, Hickenlooper told the luncheon crowd.

But “transportation has been a prickly problem” for the state and one marked by a divide between urban and rural legislators, he said.

But the basic facts remain the same: Colorado’s roads and highways are aging and the state’s gasoline tax, 22 cents per gallon, hasn’t been raised since 1992.

Read on…

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.

us_287_co_05102The Colorado Freight Advisory Council (FAC), including representatives of shippers, carriers, warehousing, providers of freight or logistics support, freight-related associations, economic development organizations, academia, and other community groups with professional knowledge of freight as it relates to the economy and industry, freight modes, or commercial transportation, passed a resolution supporting solutions for statewide transportation funding at its regular meeting on April 28, 2016. The FAC focused, not on a specific source of funding, but upon the need all of Colorado encouraging policymakers and Colorado’s citizens to come together to address the ongoing, growing shortfall facing Colorado’s statewide transportation system.

The FAC recognized the growth taking place in Colorado. Colorado’s population has grown by more than 2 million people since 1991, the last time Colorado’s gas tax was increased and Colorado’s 5.4 million residents are now driving 50 billion miles per year in total on Colorado’s roads, bridges and highways.

The current funding sources are no longer able to maintain the statewide system much less address the transportation needs of a state growing in numbers and economically. Coloradans rely now on more fuel-efficient vehicles and use far less gasoline than in 1991, which is now severely crippling our state’s gas-tax based funding system. According to an Inside Energy analysis, after adjusting for inflation, Colorado’s highway department is taking in 30 percent less money from gas taxes now than it did in 2000.

Colorado’s growing economy has resulted in dozens of critical transportation projects waiting for funding along the Front Range, Eastern Plains, Western Slope and San Luis Valley. Colorado depends on a strong highway and transportation network to safely deliver goods to market and workers to their jobs and to attract economic investment. The FAC stated “a well-functioning, modern transportation network allows Colorado to maintain a regional, national and global competitive economic position.” Moreover, Colorado’s transportation network provides important economic and access benefits to individuals, small and large businesses, schools, emergency and safety providers, and tourists and travelers—while improved reliability, quality and access benefits every region across Colorado, including urban, suburban, rural and mountain communities. Infrastructure investment and construction jobs fuel our state’s economy. According to national economic studies, every $1 billion invested in nonresidential construction creates and sustains more than 28,000 jobs and another $1.1 billion in personal earnings.

“Colorado leaders should focus on investing in these critical infrastructure projects while the state’s economy is strong and revenue is available to make significant improvements and advancements in Colorado’s statewide transportation system,” said FAC Chair Jenyce Houg. “Our state needs a sustainable, long-term transportation-funding mechanism that allows Colorado to invest in its infrastructure, especially in strong economic times, without juggling competing political and policy mandates.

Policymakers at all levels should be discussing how to transition transportation funding from the current gas-tax based system, which will never provide adequate funding as fuel efficiency and the aging highway system clash, to other methods. The FAC urged these policy makers to support solutions which 1) Provides permanent, reliable, and robust transportation funding for use as determined by the Colorado Transportation Commission pursuant to its statewide transportation planning process, 2) establishes funding sufficient to seriously and aggressively address Colorado’s current and future transportation needs, 3) allows for both maintaining and expanding the existing system to meet the needs of a growing state, and 4) is protected from future legislative actions that re-direct the resources to other uses.

Click Here to Download Resolution


The Colorado Freight Advisory Council serves as a forum for the private sector to advocate for commercial transportation needs, influence transportation policy, and collaborate with partners to develop a transportation system which supports the economic vitality of Colorado by providing for the safe, efficient, coordinated and reliable movement of freight. The Colorado Freight Advisory Committee includes representatives of shippers, carriers, warehousing, providers of freight or logistics support, freight-related associations, economic development organizations, academia, and other community groups with professional knowledge of freight as it relates to the economy and industry, freight modes, or commercial transportation. More information on the Colorado Freight Advisory Council can be found at https://www.codot.gov/programs/planning/planning-partners/fac.

A five year federal transportation reauthorization bill was an important step in stabilizing transportation funding. But as this article indicates the states must recognize the need for additional state transportation funding if state DOTs are going to be able to maintain the current systems and meet the needs of growing populations.

fastact

FAST Act… a step… but not final solution

AASHTO Journal
April 15, 2016

A number of state departments of transportation are telling lawmakers and residents to expect their highway systems to continue to deteriorate unless legislatures provide more project funding, and some states are eyeing unusual steps to keep projects moving.

A senior Michigan DOT official – Chief Operations Officer Mark Van Port Fleet – recently warned state House and Senate transportation committees, the Detroit News reported, that “the results of our predictive model is that the condition of pavement is going to continue to decline” despite higher state and federal funding levels approved in the past year.

A March 22 MDOT staff analysis said: “A significant amount of pavement is in fair condition. Even with the recent passage of increased state and federal transportation revenue, many of these pavements, if not addressed soon, will fall into poor condition. Once pavements deteriorate into the poor category, it is more costly to bring them back into good condition.”

New state projections also see vehicle miles on state roads going up faster than earlier estimates, with congestion continuing to worsen.

The MDOT official told lawmakers that a large multiyear state funding plan, signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last November, is “going to slow the decline” in road conditions, the Detroit News said.

AASHTO and other industry trade groups have said the new five-year FAST Act federal surface transportation legislation provided “modest” increases in core highway and transit program funding. While that was an improvement from previous levels, AASHTO has said it was not enough to allow states to eliminate their large backlog of needed infrastructure projects to maintain their networks and reduce congestion. Read on…