Did you know that Colorado’s state gas tax has not been raised in 25 years and that a crucial $100 million could be cut from the state’s 2017 transportation budget? While it may seem as though our state is flourishing, and it is in many areas, there are serious decreases in our state’s main transportation funding source (the gas tax) and our ability to comprehensively fund transportation. With insolvency of the federally operated Highway Trust Fund projected for 2021, Colorado is not the only state looking to new funding sources as a way to maintain and expand transportation growth. (According to Colorado 2040 Statewide Transportation Plan, the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund will result in a $1B annual funding gap for the state over the next 25 years.)
Colorado’s population and vehicle miles traveled will nearly double by 2040, which means the strain on our transportation system and the need for expansion will also increase. Much of the state’s transportation funding comes from a gas tax, but more fuel-efficient vehicles, a reduction in driving and a 25-year-old gas tax are contributing to significant funding shortfalls. Looking ahead, it is imperative that state officials implement a long-term funding solution to secure our transportation future.
In Utah, we see that a minute sales tax and recently adjusted gas tax make a significant contribution to a state’s annual transportation budget. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Utah has a comparable DOT budget ($1.3B to Colorado’s $1.4B), but has 2 million fewer residents and around 8,000 fewer miles of road to maintain. While Utah has achieved their own success, Colorado must look at creative funding mechanisms and the possibility of an increased gas tax to bridge our funding gap.
In lieu of a permanent and sustainable funding source, Colorado has embraced public-private partnerships (P3s) to ensure that infrastructure is built, while recognizing that additional funding will be needed for future maintenance, transit, bicycling and congestion management. CDOT’s move to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) 3 on Express Lanes is another way our transportation department is looking to generate revenue while maintaining clear roads for transit, carpools and individuals who choose to pay a toll. CDOT is also launching the Road Usage Charge Pilot Program, a pilot program that will assess charges based on vehicle miles traveled and could one day replace the gas tax. Along with an increased gas tax, new sources of revenue are needed to meet anticipated demands and address the state’s face-paced growth.
As part of Commuting Solutions’ ongoing commitment to enhance the economic vitality of the Northwest region, we will represent the private sector in our 2017 legislative agenda and provide opportunities for the public and private sectors to engage with one another. Our 8th Legislative Breakfast will be held on Thursday, January 5 and will provide employers, governments and residents with an opportunity to engage with one another and set the tone for making regional progress in 2017.