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…

The Hill
February 17, 2016

Getty Images

Getty Images

Pothole damage costs U.S. drivers $3 billion per year, according to a new study from the AAA auto club.

AAA said most drivers in the nation experience damage from potholes three times per year, at an average cost of $300 per repair.

“In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles,” John Nielsen, AAA’s Managing Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said in a statement.

“The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage,” he continued.
AAA said the find comes as two-thirds of U.S. residents reported in a poll that was conducted by the organization that they are worried about potholes damaging their cars.

The group said fears about pothole damage were most prevalent among drivers who reported having an income of less than $75,000 per year. Read on…

The condition of the statewide highway system is deteriorating. This is not about “their roads” and “our roads”. It must be about expanding and maintaining the entire statewide system. Congestion and road condition issues are real in urban areas. Still the urban areas of the state must acknowledge that urban Colorado needs the statewide system to grow and prosper. Colorado roads serve all of Colorado and the nation.

coloradostatemap

It takes only a quick look at a state highway map to recognize that the miles between urban areas require a safe, efficient system of moving goods through rural areas. Movement of freight and people is about connections. Urban areas rely upon rural corridors to connect to markets and resources necessary to grow their economies. Not only do rural corridors make those connections to markets but they are also sources of the resources needed to drive those economies. The statewide transportation system provides the food, fuel and fiber needed in urban population areas.

This is not a question of fair share. There is not enough revenue to expand and maintain the statewide system or to address the urban transportation needs. CDOT and its Transportation Commission have had to make decisions that they do not want to make – decisions driven by its declining budget.

The Ports-to-Plains Alliance has published Maintaining and Expanding Colorado’s Statewide Transportation System: A Rural Perspective for the recent Voices of Rural Colorado event hosted by CLUB 20, Action 22 and Progressive 15. It provides a comprehensive look, from a rural perspective, at the statewide transportation system, funding, bonding, municipalities and counties, state policies and urban needs. The conclusions from the rural overview are below. Ports-to-Plains urges you to read the entire publication to better understand the value and issues facing the Colorado’s statewide transportation system. The entire publication (8 pages) is available free of charge at www.portstoplains.com/images/emma/transportation_and_rural_colorado_012116_complete.pdf

  • Rural Transportation Infrastructure is in trouble
  • The major users of the statewide system outside urban Colorado are not rural residents. They are the urban residents on their way to a vacation or to visit family, tourists visiting our beautiful state, and trucks moving goods and resources into, out of and within the state. Should all of Colorado support the cost of maintaining that infrastructure?
  • Every local, urban solution creates a block of voters unwilling to vote for statewide transportation funding.
  • Rural legislators must understand that failure to support new statewide revenues damages the rural infrastructure.
  • Rural Colorado does not have the population required to use current tools like P3s and RTAs to generate enough revenue to maintain the statewide system. Just looking at Interstate 70 and Interstate 76 in rural Colorado, where will the funding come from to maintain those interstates? A mile of interstate reconstruction costs more than the entire budgets of many rural communities.

Ports-to-Plains, a member of MoveColorado, is a grassroots alliance of over 275 communities and businesses, including alliance partners Heartland Expressway, Theodore Roosevelt Expressway and Eastern Alberta Trade Corridor Coalition, whose mission is to advocate for a robust international transportation infrastructure to promote economic security and prosperity throughout North America’s energy and agricultural heartland including Mexico to Canada. Additional information on the Ports-to-Plains Alliance is available at www.portstoplains.com/.

Denver Post
January 25, 2016

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Brake lights fill Interstate-25 as traffic passes after 6 p.m., near Alameda. Denver traffic along I-25 was photographed on Monday, December 14, 2015. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 14: Brake lights fill Interstate-25 as traffic passes after 6 p.m., near Alameda. Denver traffic along I-25 was photographed on Monday, December 14, 2015. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Traffic in Denver. Potholes in Colorado Springs. Unplowed roads on the Eastern Plains. Highway closures in the mountains. Gridlock on Interstate 25 north.

The state’s transportation problems all collide in one place: the Capitol. And the impact is pushing the perennial issue of state transportation funding to the top of the 2016 legislative to-do list.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and lawmakers are mostly united this session in a mission to find more money for road building and maintenance, but what is less universal is the solution.

Democrats and Republicans are moving in opposite directions and struggling to reach consensus on how to find more money — an impasse that is complicated by a state budget crunch.

Half of Colorado’s $1.28 billion transportation budget is spent on maintaining existing roads, according to state officials, which leaves little room for expansion projects demanded by a booming population. Colorado Department of Transportation officials estimate that revenues fall short of demand by about $1 billion a year. Read on…

Taxes haven’t increased since 1993

Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt appeared on this week’s edition of Politics Unplugged on Denver7.

Bhatt told Anne Trujillo and Marshall Zelinger the 22-cents a gallon Colorado drivers pay in gas state tax and 18.6-cents in federal taxes hasn’t increased since 1993.

“Just from an inflationary aspect, everything else goes up over time, so both of those numbers should be adjusted to inflation,” Bhatt told the Politics Unplugged hosts.

Bhatt went on to add that in that time, not only have Colorado’s transportation needs changed, but so have the cars using the highways….