Most people don’t equate transportation with a thriving economy, mobility and freedom of choice. The truth is that having a modern transportation system is essential to our way of life. Unfortunately, we’re taking for granted the roads and bridges we inherited from our grandparents. It’s time for us to get in the driver’s seat and build a system that’s sustainable for years to come.
I want to thank Governor John Hickenlooper for hosting critical public policy meetings through the TBD Colorado project. Citizens have gathered throughout the year to talk about health care, education and the economy. During the meetings, transportation was consistently identified as a serious concern. At the regional meetings in June, an overwhelming number (over 80%) of TBD participants from across the state agreed that increasing tax revenue dedicated to our transportation system is needed.
While transportation will likely remain a key issue moving forward, I believe that if we fully understood the impact that transportation has on issues like health care and education, it would become an even higher priority. We’re fortunate to have a dependable and safe transportation system, but we fail to realize what it takes to retain that sense of security. We have come to expect reliable transportation but we need to connect that with the investment it takes to maintain it.
In fact, it’s estimated that the average American worker spends four times more for coffee every month than we pay the state for the freedom of traveling anywhere in Colorado. Workers spend over $90 a month on daily cups of joe but here in Colorado it only costs the average driver $22.50 a month for federal and state gas taxes combined.
A major reason for this inequity is that the tax used to fund our transportation system was last increased in Colorado 1991. Consequently, in the last five years our state transportation budget has decreased by 30%. President Dwight Eisenhower created today’s highway system in 1956, which has been a boon to our economy, but it requires adequate funding to maintain it. Transportation officials have done an excellent job despite falling revenues. They deserve praise but they’re limited by the funding constraints.
Just take a look around your neighborhood. Statewide 52% of our roads are rated in poor condition with a staggering 33% of our highways are in such disrepair that they require major rehabilitation or complete reconstruction. Officials would like to address these challenges but their hands are tied. They need our support.
If we don’t adjust our funding system, we won’t be able to maintain the infrastructure needed for a 21st century economy. Jobs will be lost, businesses will locate to other states and our economy could further stagnate. That’s not a future I’m willing to accept for myself or for my family.
I’m not suggesting that you should give up your morning coffee but the next time you’re drinking a cup on the way to work, ask yourself this question, “Are the roads I drive on worth as much as this coffee?” Hopefully you’ll answer, “Yes” and support investing more in transportation.
Let’s elevate transportation to the top of our priority list. If you’re participating in a policy discussion in your neighborhood, voice your concern or simply urge your representatives to find realistic ways to invest more in transportation. The solutions are there but we have to be willing to think long-term and provide more resources. Let’s drive our own destiny and create a smart, mobile and sustainable transportation system.
Mickey Ferrell is the interim executive director of Move Colorado, an organization dedicated to building a smart, mobile and sustainable multi-modal transportation system in Colorado.