Romer: Transportation bill worthy of support

Interstate 70 is a critical transportation corridor connecting Colorado’s Front Range and the Western Slope and is vital to our economic health and quality of life in Eagle County. This interstate is the only major east-west highway to move tourists and residents, as well as goods and services. Severe congestion in the corridor infuriates travelers, harms local communities and small businesses, impacts our tourism economy, creates safety risks, wastes fuel and hampers intrastate and interstate commerce.

Vail Valley Partnership has long advocated for a legislative transportation package to include permanent funding that is composed of long-term investment from the general fund, asking voters for a modest increase to the state gasoline tax, which has not been raised in Colorado since 1991 and is lower than other western states with whom Colorado competes for business. Consider Utah, which has a 33-cent state gas tax compared to Colorado’s 22-cents.

We also have supported the need for electric vehicle owners to pay their fair share. EVs use the roads, too, and currently pay very little to do so. Eventually, EVs will outnumber gasoline powered vehicles and it’s important for them to shoulder their share.

Finally, it is important that we have a mechanism that ensures CDOT is spending its resources as effectively as possible.

Senate Bill 260, the state transportation funding bill, has finally been introduced. The 190-page legislation outlines a package that will raise $5.3 billion for transportation infrastructure funding by increasing various fees including those on electric vehicles and gas and adding a state surcharge on deliveries and shared rides.

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This bill creates new sources of dedicated, sustainable funding for the state’s transportation system. It would impose new fees on gas and diesel fuel, while also creating additional fees on deliveries, rideshare trips and electric vehicle registrations. The fees are expected to raise approximately $4B over the next 10 years.

The Vail Valley Partnership has historically been involved with advocating for state-wide transportation funding solutions and has been frustrated at the inability for our state legislature and our voters to invest in Colorado’s infrastructure. We have been involved with regional groups such as I-70 Coalition and statewide groups such as Fix Colorado Roads. Collectively, we have encouraged our state elected officials to invest more in transportation and have supported doing so for years.

While SB260: Sustainability of the Transportation System isn’t perfect, it is a bill rooted in the reality of our situation that secures more of the statewide transportation and infrastructure funding we need in Colorado. We support this this legislation with the understanding that questions about its constitutionality (due to the creation of fees rather than taxes, and due to the passage of Proposition 117 which regulates enterprise fees) will be determined by the courts.

We agree with Colorado Springs Mayor and former Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who said, “I strongly believe we can’t kick the can down the road any longer. Transportation can’t be a partisan issue. It is too important to the quality of life of our residents and the economy of our state.”

This bill doesn’t solve all our problems, and we will continue to advocate for more general fund investment in infrastructure and sustainable transportation funding solutions. Colorado has failed to adequately support transportation funding over many decades; this legislation has bipartisan support and is the best effort to address the issue we’ve seen to date.

SB260 is a pragmatic and meaningful investment in our state to provide long overdue funding and investment in our infrastructure. We encourage our elected officials to support this bill.

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