If Proposition 110 passes, nine projects in Southwest Colorado would be funded, including about $55 million to widen U.S. Highway 160 east of Elmore’s Corner to Bayfield and $2 million for safety improvements along Highway 550 in Durango.
Voters will consider two ballot questions in November that would boost funding for transportation statewide in vastly different ways and dedicate different amounts to Southwest Colorado projects.
Regional Transportation Director Mike McVaugh said the additional money for the Colorado Department of Transportation is needed, in part because the 22-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline that funds the department has not gone up since 1991.
“We’re trying to spend our dollars as wisely as possible. But there is not enough money to do the job we are trying to do for you,” he told a small group gathered at the Durango Public Library on Thursday.
CDOT’s annual budget is $1.75 billion. Its funding is generated by federal and state gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, the state’s general fund and a mix of other sources.
As the state’s population has grown from 3.3 million people in 1991 to 5.4 million in 2015, CDOT’s budget per capita has declined from $125.70 per person annually to $68.54 per person annually, McVaugh said.
If nothing is done, scarcity of funds will continue to worsen, he said.
“We’re short of what we really believe needs to be done, to not just maintain what we have but to improve what we have,” said Sidny Zink, a state transportation commissioner.
Proposition 110 asks voters to raise the state sales tax by 0.62 percent (6 cents per $10 purchase) for 20 years.
The measure would allow the state to spend about $7 billion on construction projects over seven to 10 years.
“If I am paying another 6 cents on a $10 purchase, it’s going to add up incredibly fast and make a difference statewide,” Zink said.
The new revenues from Proposition 110 would be divided three ways: 45 percent would go to state projects, 40 percent would fund city and county roads and 15 percent would fund public transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects.