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.
Would ask voters to back a T-REX-style approach
If voters approve, the state would issue additional transportation revenue anticipation notes — or TRANs — for a maximum principal amount of $3.5 billion. The new TRANs would have a maximum repayment term of 20 years.
Roughly $3.5 billion in bonding would fund 45 much-needed road and bridge projects across Colorado, including the Interstate 70 mountain corridor, under a bill introduced late Monday in the legislature.
The measure — dubbed the Fix Colorado Roads Act — seeks to establish a “sustainable solution to Colorado’s transportation funding crisis,” say the bill’s backers.
They hope to put the 20-year bond program proposal on the November 2016 ballot for voters to decide.
Senate Bill 210 would put Colorado on par with other states that dip regularly into their general fund revenues to help maintain and build transportation infrastructure, said David May, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and a proponent of widening Interstate 25 north of Denver.
Colorado, on the other hand, devotes no reliable general fund dollars to transportation. Read on…
The Highway Trust Fund authority runs out on May 31 unless Congress extends it, which would mean states would go without federal transportation dollars just ahead of construction season. A short-term extension is almost a certainty, but the House and Senate can’t even decide whether the extension should run a few months or through the end of the year, let alone how to pay for it.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is still working with colleagues to find a solution, a spokesman said. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee, put it more succinctly: “All very fluid right now.”
But one thing is clear: Congress is unlikely to follow the lead of the dozen or so states this year that are taking a look at the gas tax.
Despite proponents like Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who leads the Senate Committee writing transportation-authorization language, raising the federal 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax is a political nonstarter. The tax hasn’t been increased or adjusted for inflation since 1993, which has left the Highway Trust Fund nearly dry (the Department of Transportation says the fund will be bankrupt in August). Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said last month of a gas-tax increase that “I don’t think at this point that’s possible.”
States, however, have increasingly latched onto the idea of hiking the gas tax—or “user fee” in more politically friendly parlance—to cover their transportation coffers. Each state already puts its own gas tax on top of the federal one (although some use excise taxes or sales taxes rather than a straight per-gallon fee), and given perilously low funding levels, seven states in the 2013-2014 election cycle passed gas-tax increases on ballots or through legislatures, with more looking at it this year.
And it’s a trend highlighted by red states. Iowa, led by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, in February raised its gas and diesel tax by 10 cents a gallon. Republican-led Utah raised its tax by 5 cents, which is set to take effect in July, and Idaho’s legislature passed a 7-cent increase, with Republican lawmakers even seeking more.
And legislatures in Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Missouri, and others are all weighing options to raise their fuel taxes. Georgia even restructured its tax system and tacked on a $5-per-night fee on hotel and motel stays to fund transportation. A complex transportation-funding ballot measure in Michigan failed last week, but the tax increases wouldn’t have been solely for transportation, turning some voters off.
“This should be a wake-up call for legislators at the federal level that states aren’t waiting and they’re getting out in front of this,” said Matt Jeanneret, a spokesman for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. ARTBA planned to release an analysis Tuesday showing that 96 percent of Republican state legislators and 88 percent of Democrats were reelected after voting for a gas-tax hike, indicating that there may be little political blowback for the move.
There’s been some tepid interest on the Hill for a gas-tax increase—GOP Rep. Jim Renacci of Ohio has introduced a bipartisan bill indexing the federal rate to inflation. But the bill seems likely to see the same fate as other gas-tax bills, which have not gained traction.
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who supports the bill, said that the progress in the states shows that the public can get behind highway funding tied to taxes.
“There is huge public support when people decide, ‘OK, we’re going to make a decision; it may not be the most popular with everybody,'” Blumenauer said, adding that state legislators faced little blowback for gas-tax increases. “It’s a case of will and action.”
By Jason Plautz and Libby Isenstein
The National Journal
Coloradans rallied to keep public transportation moving. They wanted their message to make an impact with congress.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock led demonstrators in a march down the 16th Street Mall from Market Street to Union Station where they rallied for Stand Up 4 Transportation day.
Hancock and state lawmakers want congress to pass a long-term transportation funding bill. The current funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP 21), expires May 31.
The bill would help replace bridges, buy new buses, build new road and create new rail lines.
“Transportation is the lifeblood of our city,” Mayor Hancock said. “An affordable and reliable transit system gets our people to work, school and healthcare, then back to their families. It provides our businesses throughout the region with the infrastructure to flourish. But just as a strong public transportation system can provide our cities with a competitive advantage, a crumbling infrastructure threatens our economic future. That’s why cities are taking the lead to push Congress to reauthorize a long-term transportation bill that increases federal funding.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat representing Colorado, also spoke at the rally.
The rally in Denver was one of several across the country.
Dear Governor Hickenlooper,
Those who follow transportation funding issues were disappointed last week by passage of the well intentioned but misguided SB 197 – a bill we respectfully request that you veto.
As the voice of many organizations and entities with interests in finding sustainable funding streams for our critical transportation infrastructure, Move Colorado supports aspects of the bill that protect the public’s interest by mandating public involvement and increased reporting to lawmakers on future Public Private Partnerships, or P3s. We oppose, however, the constraints on future P3s via onerous restrictions aimed at limiting a valuable tool from an ever-shrinking transportation funding toolbox. Weakening this tool, as this legislation does, effectively eliminates it – an outcome that we find untenable.
Having witnessed the process that was the catalyst for this bill, I’m confident that key issues will be addressed as new High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) projects move forward. The best parts of this legislation provide an exceptional roadmap to live up to lawmakers – and the public’s – expectations, and can be accomplished through executive order. The worst parts are just bad policy and deserve your veto.
Let’s give your Department of Transportation an opportunity to implement these principles before imposing unnecessarily narrow leeway on which to find innovative solutions to fund transportation infrastructure.
To read the full letter, click here.
Move Colorado is testifying today at the HPTE Board Meeting in support of the US 36 Managed Lanes contract. We will ask that this fact sheet – which provides broad context for the transportation funding challenges we face as a state – be entered into the record.
The following links clarify exactly what P3s are and why they are critical for the future of transportation funding, not just in Colorado but throughout the nation.
The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships (NCPPP)
The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL)
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Denver – Feb. 6, 2014 – Move Colorado has announced the addition of two new board members for 2014, with Carla Romero Perez of Jacobs and Del Walker of Parsons joining as the newest officers. Perez will serve as Vice President and Walker will serve as Secretary.
The new board members will join at a critical juncture in the future of transportation funding in Colorado. The state is at risk of falling behind, no longer able to afford needed improvements to its transportation infrastructure.
“Already leaders in the transportation industry, Carla and Del are two very meaningful additions to Move Colorado,” said Melissa Osse, Move Colorado executive director. “They bring years of experience and expertise to the table that will greatly benefit our continuing efforts to solve transportation funding issues throughout Colorado – issues that grow more concerning as time goes by.”
Perez has 23 years of experience in executive management and advisory services specializing in transportation policy, finance, administration, project, and program development and is currently a Senior Consultant with Jacobs. Previously she served as the Assistant General Manager for Administration at the Regional Transportation District (RTD), served in Governor Bill Ritter’s administration and was CDOT’s first Policy Director.
Walker has served as Colorado Area Manager with Parsons since April 2008. Prior to his work at Parsons, he spent two years as Deputy Assistant General Manager of Capital Programs at Regional Transportation District (RTD). Before RTD, Del was the Director of Staff Branches at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). He also served as Deputy Project Director on Metro Denver’s Transportation Expansion (T-REX) Project.
Perez and Walker join a board consisting of President Jeff Kullman of Atkins, and Treasurer Ken Rudolph of Nolte.
Move Colorado is a private industry organization that provides information, sponsors education programs and supports the efforts of Colorado community, business and political leaders to solve transportation funding issues. For more information, visit www.movecolorado.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Office of Gov. John Hickenlooper and ColoradoUnited.com
ColoradoUnited, 303-865-8151, email@example.com
Town of Lyons restores critical infrastructure, recovery efforts continue to rebuild communities
DENVER — Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 — Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced that significant infrastructure repairs have been made to the Town of Lyons’ transportation, water systems and waste water systems damaged by the September floods. Additionally, the state and federal government continue to coordinate and provide assistance to businesses, families and communities recovering from flood damages.
Hickenlooper has made 27 visits to 18 counties that had flood damage to meet with community and business leaders. The governor encourages community and business leaders to continue to work with the state and federal government to rebuild quickly and better. Additionally, the governor submitted the FY 2014-15 budget request that includes funds for recovery efforts from wildfires and floods.
Town of Lyons Recovery Efforts
As of last Friday, Nov. 1, the Town of Lyons no longer has a boil-water advisory and the waste water treatment plant has resumed operations. Nearly 90 percent of the town now has wastewater sewer service through permanent or temporary solutions, and the remaining 10 percent expect to have service within the next two weeks.
Recovery Office Efforts
More than 1,200 Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Office of Emergency Management (OEM), National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workers continue to collaborate to address the needs of Coloradans impacted by the September flooding:
• CDOT and the National Guard reopened U.S. 36 between Lyons and Estes Park on Monday, Nov. 4 — nearly one month ahead of schedule.
• 89 percent of damaged state and federal roadways are now open, with the remaining on track for opening by Dec. 1.
• FEMA approved a third extension to the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program that pays for eligible flood evacuees to stay in temporary housing. FEMA, Office of Emergency Management, and Division of Housing are working with impacted families and individuals to have more permanent housing solutions by Thanksgiving.
• The U.S. Small Business Administration approved $57.3 million in low-interest disaster loans to Colorado homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofit organizations that have experienced physical or economic injury. SBA loan applications are due by Nov. 30.
• As of this week, FEMA Public Assistance obligated an additional $10.9 million in funding to applicants in the 20 counties eligible for Public Assistance. Deadlines for applications are Nov. 16 for counties approved in September and Nov. 20 for counties added in October.
• The deadline for FEMA Individual Assistance applications was extended to Nov. 30 for people in the 11 counties approved for Individual Assistance. Total funding allocated to date is $46.7 million and, as of this week, 26,000 people have applied and 15,000 applications have been approved.
Fundraising and Volunteer Efforts Gain Momentum
As of this week, more than $15 million has been raised by Red Cross, United Way and HelpColoradoNow to assist those impacted by the flooding. This includes more than $687,000 raised for United Way by the Colorado Rising Concert on Oct 27.
ColoradoUnited.com Adds New FEMA Public Assistance Resource
With more than 12,000 visitors in one week, ColoradoUnited.com continues to enable people to find the information and resources regarding the flood recovery. A new resource on the site is easy-to-follow documentation of the FEMA Public Assistance process with five scenarios based on type and size of projects. Subject experts have provided the promised 24-hour response to 74 inquiries received via the Contact Us page.
Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Jerre Stead, executive chairman of Englewood-based IHS Inc., to be the state’s Chief Recovery Officer. The Recovery Team is focused on making Colorado more innovative, safer and resilient in its infrastructure, community and environment. Go to www.ColoradoUnited.com for more information.
Megan Castle, 303-513-2713 c, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Ford, 303-514-4913 c, email@example.com
Gov. Hickenlooper announces 44 statewide transportation projects for RAMP program
DENVER — Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 — Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Don Hunt today announced 44 partnership projects as part of the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program totaling $580 million to maximize and expand the statewide transportation system. The RAMP program was created in December 2012 as a new approach to budgeting and planning to accelerate the completion of transportation projects.
“The innovative RAMP program will allow us to make critical improvements to our state’s transportation system,” Hickenlooper said. “These transportation improvements will increase the safety and access of our roadways. Also, these projects will boost our economy through construction job growth and the improvements to our state’s transportation system.”
The RAMP program has also identified $66 million in operations projects throughout the state. Combined with an additional $800 million dedicated to statewide asset management projects to maintain the system, RAMP will result in approximately $300 million per year increase in project construction for five years, an increase of 50 percent. RAMP’s impact is significant for the state’s economy, as every $1.5 million spent on transportation projects sustains or creates 10.55 jobs.
Under the RAMP program, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will fund multi-year projects based on year of expenditure, rather than saving for the full amount of a project before construction begins. This will match project expenditures with available revenues and allow CDOT to fund additional transportation projects over the next five years. CDOT will continue moving forward the RAMP program in addition to the flood recovery efforts and will work with counties impacted by the flooding to determine the best time for project implementation.
“The local and private sector response to this program has been extraordinary, with CDOT receiving a total of 166 applications requesting more than $1.54 billion, over 2 times the total funding available,” said Hunt. “While it demonstrates the continued transportation needs we have statewide, we were also able to extend the reach of our RAMP funds because our local partners also contributed $118 million to these projects and we hope to leverage more from the private sector.
In summary, the 44 partnership project elements include:
Additionally, many of these projects will result in better safety conditions and reduce accidents. For example, the Pueblo I-25 project will reduce accidents by 65 percent in that area and the SH 9 project in Grand County will dramatically reduce vehicle and wildlife collisions. Improved travel times are another outcome of many of the projects, for instance, the proposed interchange reconstruction at I-25 and Arapahoe will improvement travel times up to 50 percent in some directions.
For updated information visit http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/RAMP.
A summary of RAMP projects is attached.