Proponents: C&D will address state’s transportation woes
EAGLE COUNTY – It’s a familiar sight on I-70 eastbound during busy times of the year: A long line of cars and trucks snake up the hill toward the Vail Pass summit, jockeying for position as barely moving trucks move into the left lane to pass even slower ones. A third lane to allow room for pokey trucks has been planned for years, and if Referendums C&D pass this Nov. 1, construction on it could begin in 2008. If they don’t pass, there’s almost no telling when non-crucial projects like this would get going, State Rep. Gary Lindstrom said.”They rank every road in the state, and right now about half of them don’t get a passing grade,” said Lindstrom, who represents Eagle County. “If C and D don’t pass, things will just continue to get worse, and capital projects (like Vail Pass) won’t happen at all.”Lindstrom, who sits on the House transportation committee, said there’s a master list of capital projects decided by various boards and officials at the state and community levels. When it was determined that C&D would mainly be about education and transportation, he said that list was discarded in favor of a new one that spread projects around the state.”They tried to create some equity in where they were placed,” Lindstrom said. “Eagle County got the Dowd Junction and Vail Pass projects, Summit got the four-laning of Highway 9 to Breckenridge.”Missing from the C&D list for Eagle County is the proposed Eagle County Airport interchange for I-70, although it still sits on the master list.”Because there hasn’t been any money, the list just languishes and nothing gets built,” Lindstrom said.
The way the referendums are structured, most of the money for transportation projects is contained in Referendum D. That’s the one asking voters to approval a loan – through the issuance of bonds – for some $2 billion. About $1.2 billion of that is earmarked for road and bridge projects. Money to repay the bonds would come from Referendum C, which asks voters to allow the state to retain excess tax revenues. Doing so would temporarily suspend the so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” – or TABOR – amendment passed by voters in 1992 to limit state spending.Supporters say both need to pass to help the state dig itself out of its financial quagmire.”It’s critical that the state infrastructure and education is funded,” said Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi. “The overall issue for transportation is that projects are being pushed out 20, 30 years. Most of our transportation meetings are based on how there’s no money.”According to a report on Colorado highways just released by the non-profit national transportation group TRIP, bad roads cost Colorado drivers $3.3 billion each year. That’s in the form of traffic accidents, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays.SolutionsOpponents of C&D say simply that the state should work with what it has. They call the measure a tax increase and decry what they see as scaremongering by proponents.”If it fails, will we see our roads falling apart? God no!” said Jon Caldara, director of the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank in Golden leading the charge against C&D. “It’s like when the post office raises postal rates first they threaten to cancel delivery on Saturday. This is the same kind of scam.”
Whether it’s roads, education or health care, Caldara said there’s a clear need for better management from state government.”Now it’s time for the citizens of Colorado to say ‘go back and do your job,'” he said. “Prioritize spending, make good decisions.”Ray Christensen, who leads Vote Yes On C&D, said that kind of talk can be deceiving.”People need to dig deeper into the real issue, and once they see the real needs, and that it’s not a blank check, they see it’s a wise investment in Colorado’s infrastructure,” Christensen said.Waiting, he added, only makes it worse. “When you delay fixing roads and bridges, the cost just goes up,” he said. “No, the state won’t blow away, but it’s a big strain. You pay now or you pay later.”Lindstrom said people like Caldara are so anti-tax and anti-government that they believe only police and fire departments should be funded. Everything else would be paid for be fees, tolls and the like.”It’s not reasonable, and people won’t sit still for it,” Lindstrom said.
Ed Fink, regional director for Colorado Department of Transportation Region 3 – which includes Eagle County – said the C and D question is pretty straightforward when it comes to state road and bridge projects.”It if passes, the list will be done,” he said. “If it doesn’t, it’s just a list – there’s no funding.”Even if C&D are rejected, Fink said there will still be money to do routine maintenance and some capital projects. There’s a also a separate request in, he said, for an additional $30 million annually to address the many state bridges that need to be repaired or replaced.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado