The following is a guest column by Raymond Swerdfeger on transportation in Colorado. Thank you to the Pueblo Chieftain for covering this important topic.
Colorado is home to a complex network of roads, bridges, highways, tunnels and public transportation options that help us get to the places we love to go.
The transportation system we inherited from our grandparents has been so reliable that we’ve come to take it for granted. We’re now at a crossroads and are forced to face our shared responsibility to improve and maintain the system, which is aging and underfunded.
Colorado’s transportation system is the foundation of our economy and provides us with the freedom and mobility to travel anywhere in the state.
There are nearly 23,000 miles of highway, 3,450 bridges, 20 tunnels and 35 high-mountain passes that are open year-round.
We have buses and trains, tracks and stations. This entire infrastructure requires daily maintenance, which is expensive and the costs go up during the winter months when 5.7 million miles of highway are snowplowed and deiced.
Due to deteriorating revenues, 52 percent of our roads are now rated in poor condition and 33 percent of our highways require major rehabilitation or complete reconstruction. Public officials have done everything they can within the constraints of a state budget that has declined by 30 percent over the last five years.
The average Colorado driver is only spending $22.50 a month for federal and state gas taxes combined. Compare this to the average American worker who spends four times more for coffee every month (about $90) than we do for the freedom of driving anywhere in the state. We pay such low costs because the tax used to fund our transportation system was last increased in Colorado in 1991.
There is hope that informed citizens are recognizing this problem and the need to fully fund the system. Gov. John Hickenlooper recently wrapped up regional public policy meetings through the TBD Colorado project.
Citizens from across the state participating in the meetings talked about health care, education, the economy and transportation. After a close analysis of the state of transportation, over 80 percent of all TBD participants agreed that increasing tax revenue dedicated to our transportation system is needed.
While the show of support for increased funding levels at TBD is a great start, I’m writing to ask for your support as well. We inherited an amazing transportation system from our grandparents, but it’s our shared responsibility to improve and maintain it.
The future of our economy and our livelihoods depend on it. Please place transportation at the top of your priority list and urge your representatives to find realistic ways to invest more in the system.
Raymond Swerdfeger of Pueblo is a member of Move Colorado and president of the Colorado Contractors Association.