Vail Daily guest column: Transportation fix vital to Colorado
Why advocate for fixing state transportation funding issues? The Vail Valley Partnership Board of Governors has identified transit and transportation as a key strategic priority area. This includes a focus on the Interstate 70 corridor, regional transit within the county, and increasing available seats to the Eagle County Regional Airport through support of the EGE Air Alliance.
Interstate 70 is a critical transportation corridor connecting Colorado’s Front Range and the Western Slope. 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.
Improving transit within Eagle County and the Vail Valley is important to both visitors and our local workforce. Improving transit is essential to our workforce and to alleviate pressure on public parking and other public safety issues. Transit is important moving forward as Eagle County’s population continues to grow and our workforce housing pressures increase. An increase in transit service — the reach and frequency of busses, express bus services and an improved trail system — will benefit our quality of life.
Increasing air service and visitors coming through Eagle County has a direct economic benefit on every community — and every business — in Eagle County. Survey data shows over $275 million is spent by visitors coming through the airport — with guests visiting our communities staying longer and having a higher repeat visitation rate than those who arrive through Denver International Airport. Because so much of our local economy, job market and businesses depend on the dollars spent by tourists and second homeowners who come through the Eagle County Regional Airport, the EGE Air Alliance plays a real, significant role that directly impacts Eagle County’s residents and communities. The Vail Valley Partnership is proud to continue to work to increase non-stop flight access from key destination markets.
We encourage our elected officials at the state and local levels to continue bipartisan efforts to improve the transportation and transit systems within Colorado and Eagle County.
Vail Valley Partnership has been a vocal advocate at the state level to improve our state highway funding, and recently joined chamber and economic development groups from around the state to sign on to the following letter to the governor and our state legislators:
Dear Mr. Governor, Mr. President, Madame Speaker, Madame Leader and Mr. Leader:
We agree with and applaud your opening day statements to your respective bodies and in your State of the State address that our transportation challenges threaten our economic competitiveness. We are also very encouraged by the new openness to bipartisan conversations to find solutions.
We greatly appreciate your focus on the growing crisis that faces our roads, bridges and overall transportation system. From safety concerns and delayed repairs to the need for significantly more capacity on a number of our key traffic arteries, the status quo threatens the vibrancy of our economy, our attractiveness as a destination for business and tourism and our quality of life.
Failure to address the challenge before us is no longer an option. The cost of projects will continue to rise, travel times will increase and tourist and recreation destinations become less attractive. Doing nothing means the ability to engage in commerce becomes more challenging and economic opportunities will be lost as businesses choose to relocate to other states that invest in their infrastructure.
The people of Colorado understand this. According to polling, voters believe funding Colorado’s roads should be a state funding priority. Moreover, nine out of 10 voters believe Colorado’s roads are in “desperate need of repair.”
We strongly support your desire to make the repair and expansion of Colorado’s roads, bridges and mobility options a priority again. We are prepared to work with you, to work across the party lines and the two floors of the Capitol to enact a pragmatic, balanced solution where we address the volatility of transportation funding and jump-start critical transportation projects across the entire state of Colorado. Together, we can enact a balanced solution that establishes a new long term, dedicated and sustainable source of funds, restores Colorado’s commitment to transportation within our state budget, and reflects the expectations and preferences of voters.
Your consensus surrounding our desperate transportation needs tells us that we can achieve a landmark agreement this session.
We stand with all of you in your efforts to fix Colorado roads! Let’s work together to make 2017 the year we stopped talking about our transportation funding challenge and instead achieved a solution worthy of the people of Colorado.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership. Learn more at http://www.VailValleyPartnership.com.