Governor’s transportation panel in cries crisis in Colorado
Summit County correspondent
Frisco, CO Colorado
FRISCO Colorado ” On the last leg of their six-week tour, Gov. Bill Ritter’s blue-ribbon transportation panel hosted a discussion Thursday in Frisco, Colorado to educate resident and local elected officials on Colorado’s ailing transportation system.
“Basically we are experiencing a quiet crisis that we don’t want to be quiet any longer,” said Carla Perez, Ritter’s senior transportation advisor. “We’ve been doing these meeting to let individual communities know there is a problem, and asking them to participate in the conversations moving forward.”
Formed in April of 2007, the Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel was able to identify some of the most glaring inadequacies in the state’s transportation system, which includes more than 100 structurally deficient bridges and a number of state highways in disrepair.
“We really want to raise awareness about this problem so people can communicate how they feel about it,” said panel co-chairman Doug Aden. “We’re looking at a tired, worn-out transportation system that needs help soon.”
A poll conducted by MOVE Colorado earlier in the year found that 63 percent of Colorado residents don’t recognize transportation as a problem, which prompted the panel to take its show on the road with 25 public-outreach meetings.
“We’re really trying to enlist people to spread the message,” Aden said. “We would like to use the feedback from these meetings to put together a solid recommendation package that can go into next year’s legislative session.”
In January, the 32-member panel packaged their findings in “A Report to Colorado,” a 40-page booklet outlining the severity of the crisis along with numerous alternative funding options.
The panel’s findings revealed that the state must come up with $500 million each year just to maintain the existing road and bridges, and $1.5 billion per year in new money would be required to repair failing roadways.
In today’s slow economy, funding for transportation at the state level is limited, and the panel has proposed several different tax increases that could help fill the gap.
After brainstorming some 39 funding alternatives, the panel was able to narrow it down to five recommendations, including a proposed vehicle-registration tax increase and a $6 visitor fee for those renting a car or staying in a hotel.
“There has been some push back on these recommendations, but we’re trying to think of it as a menu of choices,” Aden said. “As a state we have to decide if this is important, and then how we are going to get the funding to fix it.”
Members of the panel said that the outreach meetings have been a huge success, with attendance averaging somewhere close to 30 people a meeting.
Attendants at the discussion were also asked to provide their contact information so they could be informed of any new developments happening with the transportation panel in the future
“It’s hard to make transportation personal until it effects someone’s daily commute,” Perez said. “We’ve heard what people have to say and now it is a matter of how to move forward.”
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