Colorado’s recent population boom has brought economic stimulation and increased tax revenue, but has also brought more drivers to our roads. This unprecedented growth is putting a strain on the already deficient transportation budget and Colorado’s roads, 52 percent of which are in poor condition.
The main funding source for transportation infrastructure is the Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF), which is funded by state gas tax and license/registration fees. Though the price of gas has steadily increased, the gas tax rate has remained unchanged since 1991, and now accounts for a mere 6 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas.
After 11 percent is taken “off the top” to help fund Colorado State Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles, the remainder is split with 60 percent going to CDOT and 40 percent going to cities and counties. Annually, CDOT receives $400 million from the HUTF, but spends over $684 million just to maintain the current system, accounting for 63 percent of their $1.1 billion budget.
Transportation funding is complemented by FASTER, which raises about $200 million annually through vehicle registration fees. Since this program’s inception, 121 bridges received improvements and nearly 300 safety projects have been funded. Even taking this additional funding into account, there is still an annual transportation funding shortfall of $772 million.
The struggle to maintain existing infrastructure makes the task of effectively addressing mobility and congestion issues nearly impossible. It is estimated that the population of Colorado will grow by 48 percent and vehicle miles traveled will increase by 64 percent in the next 20 years. If in that same time frame no infrastructure is added, Coloradoans can expect an estimated 158 percent increase in traffic delays. What is now a 17 minute commute will become more than 44 minutes.
To get a better idea of the current state of transportation in Colorado, click here.
UPDATE: CoPIRG recently released a report showing that Coloradans have cut their per-person driving miles by 11.4 percent since 2005, and that overall mileage is in steady decline across the country. They have also released an interesting infographic showing what is likely behind this national decline, and the possible futures of vehicle miles traveled for the country.