Vail Daily column: Fix Colorado roads
“Colorado’s roads must be fixed.
“Our state’s population is growing rapidly. Road congestion and travel times — to work and to play — are increasing with it.
“Ignoring reality and maintaining the status quo threatens not only the free flow of commerce, our tourism economy, our ability to attract high-quality companies and jobs, and our quality of life but our very safety as well.
“A 21st century system of roads and bridges will be the foundation of a prosperous future for Colorado, and the families and businesses that call our state home.
“We must find a solution to fix our roads. Now.
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“We urge you to work with legislators of both parties, along with local officials, business and community leaders and concerned citizens to dedicate funds to fix the roads and bridges throughout Colorado. We believe there is a solution that can accelerate transportation projects — without raising our taxes.
“The time is now and we believe that you can lead Colorado toward the right solution that will be a lasting legacy for your time as our governor.
“Let’s work together and fix our roads.”
So reads an open letter to Gov. Hickenlooper and leaders of the Colorado Legislative Assembly on the Fix Colorado Roads website (www.fixcoloradoroads.com).
Hickenlooper recognizes the need for increased focus on roads; in his address to the Joint Budget Committee on Nov. 12 of last year he stated, “We have an infrastructure deficit. We should be very real that when business is deciding where they want to live, where they want to build their business and their lives, they are going to look at traffic. In Utah, between Provo to Ogden, six lanes the entire way, light rail and they have half the population.”
The governor isn’t alone in recognizing the problem of underfunded infrastructure regarding transportation in Colorado. Based on recent polling, 90 percent of Coloradans agree that our roads are in dire need of repair and expansion. Colorado devotes a whopping zero dollars from the state general fund to our road system — which is obvious and is causing our road maintenance and expansion to fall behind our economic and population growth.
How’d we get to the point where 90 percent of the population agrees on anything? That is seemingly impossible in today’s hyper-partisan political environment. But the fact is Colorado lacks a permanent, reliable, and sufficient general fund funding formula for our roads and bridges. The problem has become glaringly obvious.
Senate Bill 228, passed in 2009, is volatile and temporary. It was enacted as a stopgap with the belief that a permanent source of general fund dollars for roads and bridges would subsequently be enacted. That has yet to happen, leaving road improvements to be severely underfunded. Credit is due to CDOT for dedicating a small portion of its budget to finance and accelerate the construction of major infrastructure transportation projects throughout Colorado, but funding our state road infrastructure solely though the Department of Transportation doesn’t address our major needs throughout the state.
Enter Fix Colorado Roads. Fix Colorado Roads is a growing coalition of business groups from every region of the state believes that 2016 is the year for a bipartisan solution to fix Colorado roads. Goals for the Fix Colorado Roads Act are:
• Funding sufficient to seriously and aggressively address Colorado’s current and future transportation needs.
• Reliable, permanent General Fund commitment to transportation infrastructure.
• Optimally use and leverage existing and new transportation funding streams.
• Build large scale roadway expansion programs statewide.
• Maintain and improve the existing system.
• Can gain broad-based support in the Legislature and among Colorado voters.
This coalition makes the case that new funding must be committed to the state’s transportation system. It proposes a permanent General Fund commitment to transportation infrastructure. Another promising idea is a continued CDOT commitment to dedicate a small portion of their budget to fund a $3.5 billion Fix Colorado Roads bond program. Leveraging today’s revenue stream to accelerate our investment will create jobs and keep Colorado’s economy competitors.
The Fix Colorado Roads bond program would be referred by the Legislature to the voters in the November election. The robust funding and finance program would support road projects statewide touching every legislative district.
Other ideas being batted around are a gas tax increase or a dedicated transportation sales tax.
The benefits are clear. Our state economy relies on efficient transportation systems, and our local tourism economy relies on easy access for our visitors. Better roads, safer bridges, and more efficient transit make businesses throughout the state and in the Vail Valley more competitive.
Learn more and sign the petition to encourage our elected officials to address our infrastructure needs at FixColoradoRoads.com.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership.