Transportation Funding Gaining Momentum in Colorado

After the historic passage of Senate Bill 001 during the legislative session this spring, stakeholders from all sectors are hoping voters will keep the transportation momentum moving forward this November.

Tony Milo, Executive Director, Colorado Contractors Association and Jake Martin, Campaign Director, Let’s Go, Colorado shared Coloradoans for Colorado’s vision for sustainable transportation funding during Commuting Solutions’ quarterly Membership Meeting this week.

“Today, we are here to get Colorado moving again and propose a ballot measure that will put real, ongoing funding towards our statewide transportation system,” explained Milo.

What exactly is Let’s Go, Colorado proposing and how could it impact the northwest metro region? We have the inside scoop on their proposed ballot measure.

What is Let’s Go, Colorado?

Let’s Go, Colorado is a ballot initiative to address the funding needs for transportation across the state of Colorado. The ballot initiative is being put forth by a coalition of nearly 30 organizations statewide commonly known as Coloradoans for Colorado.

Let’s Go, Colorado is proposing a 0.62 percent sales tax that would provide money to the State Highway Fund, Local Transportation Priorities Fund (Cities & Counties) and a Multimodal Transportation Fund.

Tell me more about the potential ballot measure…

After an in-depth look at every mechanism available to fund transportation, the coalition determined that a sales tax was the most equitable, single funding source.  The sales tax option will raise enough to address our transportation needs while ensuring that everyone (including tourists) pay the same rates. In the first year, this solution is estimated to raise $767 million in revenue.

Worried about how this sales tax could impact your pocket book? The sales tax would be about six cents on a ten-dollar purchase.

How did we get here?

Colorado has a $9 billion backlog of transportation related projects that desperately need funding but there isn’t any available money in the state budget. This deficit didn’t appear overnight, so how did Colorado get here?

In 1992, Colorado passed a gas tax to help fund transportation projects in the state. 22 cents from every gallon of gas purchased goes towards transportation funding. Despite inflation, a higher cost of gas and growing transportation needs, this tax has not changed in almost 30 years.

Costs have also increased dramatically since 1992. The cost of resurfacing a road has increased by over 120%. The Colorado Department of Transportation can barely keep up with the costs of maintenance, let alone funding new projects.

What next?

The Let’s Go, Colorado ballot initiative has until August 6 to collect 98,492 signatures to get the initiative onto the November ballot.

Currently, Commuting Solutions has taken a position of conditional support of the Let’s Go, Colorado initiative, contingent upon the inclusion and level of funding of projects from our region in the ballot project list. The US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition and Commuting Solutions has written a letter to the Colorado Department of Transportation outlining the projects they would need funded in order to support the ballot initiative.

If you would like to sign the Let’s Go, Colorado petition to get it on November’s ballot, click here.

To learn more about the state of transportation in Colorado, go to commutingsolutions.org.

 

The Fight for Transportation Funding for the Northwest Region

 

At Commuting Solutions, we are proud to be a part of a community that cares for our environment, makes conscious efforts to improve the air quality for all and frequently takes advantage of multimodal commute options. Not only is the northwest metro region a leader in transportation initiatives in the state, but also the nation. This summer, we shared the success of CDOT’s US 36 Express Lanes Project and continue to celebrate the record number of cyclists who use the US 36 Bikeway, commuters who have found a stress-free commute on the Flatiron Flyer and drivers who have enjoyed faster commute times due to the US 36 Express Lanes and a record number of riders are traveling by rail on the B Line. While these multi-modal projects have been a smashing success, significant regional transportation funding needs remain.

RTD Representative shares insights into RTD’s strategic business plan.

One of the hardest questions we are frequently asked is surrounding the unfulfilled promise of RTD FasTracks’ Northwest Rail and the Northwest Area Mobility Study’s arterial Bus Rapid Transit funding. Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting Heather McKillop, RTD Chief Financial Officer at our September Membership Meeting. To put things bluntly, there simply is not enough funding for the needs of our community, nor will there be for many years. During McKillop’s presentation, she shared that currently the FasTracks Internal Savings Accounts will be depleted by 2023 and there is no funding available to replenish the account for our region. In addition to a lack of available monetary resources, the projects face additional roadblocks:

Construction and operation of currently unfunded corridors
Completion of on-going projects
Sales and use tax volatility
Financing capacity and funding constraints

While the prognosis for funding is dim, Commuting Solutions will continue to fight for transportation investments in the northwest metro region, advocate for projects agreed upon and supported by RTD in the Northwest Area Mobility Study and investigate new sources of funding to help meet the needs of our growing communities.

Free Passes for “HOV Only” Drivers

Free Passes for “HOV Only” Drivers

Switchable HOV passes are now available for free for drivers that travel on the I-25 and US 36 Express Lanes and plan to only use those passes for carpooling!

Previously, the transponders cost $15 for all drivers, but CDOT and HPTE made the change to make carpooling easier for those who are dedicated to that mode of travel. If drivers plan to use any of the other Colorado tolled facilities like the I-70 Mountain Express Lane, E-470 or Northwest Parkway, or if they use their pass in Toll mode on the US 36 and I-25 Express Lanes, they are not eligible for the free pass.

Drivers who receive the free pass must drive in HOV mode at least once in the first six months after receiving it in order to remain an HOV Only account. If drivers do not use it within six months, use the pass in Toll mode, or on a tolled facility, they will be charged the cost of the switchable HOV pass. In addition, HOV Only drivers must have a driver and at least two passengers to use the Express Lanes for free under the new HOV 3+ rule.

For questions about your account, the HOV Only account and pass or to find the pass that works best for you, contact ExpressToll at expresstoll.com or (303) 537-3470.

Dead end for gas tax shouldn’t end search for fixes

By Denver Post Editorial Board
February 7, 2017

It’s no secret in Colorado that our state and federal gas taxes aren’t able, by far, to keep up with the demand for new roads and the upkeep of those already in place — and often clogged with traffic.

So we hope Coloradans pay attention this session to various efforts afoot to fill the gap. As thousands of newcomers move to the state each year, the strain on our transportation infrastructure will only increase, and there just isn’t the money available to pay for it.

One straightforward fix appears hopelessly out of the question. As The Denver Post’s Brian Eason recently reported, polling by the influential Colorado Contractors Association, which has for years supported raising taxes to support our struggling transportation system, shows little appetite among voters for raising the gas tax.

“We’ve done quite a bit of polling over the last two years and have found that the prospect of voters increasing their own gas tax is very slim,” said Tony Milo, of the contractors group.

“They are actually much more open to some other types of taxes than they are to gas taxes.”

And little wonder. Asking voters to increase that tax, especially when those dependent on gasoline-powered cars know that their hybrid and electric driving cohorts would largely escape the increase, does seem foolhardy.

The news comes as Republican and Democratic lawmakers are considering going to voters this November to increase sales taxes to fund transportation spending. Should voters approve a tweak to the 2.9 percent statewide sales tax by 0.5 percent, as much as $514 million could be raised in the next fiscal year.

We’ve long bemoaned the fact that the gas tax, which was last increased in 1991, isn’t doing the job. As Eason reports, advances in fuel efficiency combined with inflation have eroded the power of the tax significantly. The 22-cents-per-gallon tax pulls in 30 percent less than it did in 2000.

What does that really mean? Consider that back in 1991, the state spent about $125.70 per person a year on transportation. By 2015, the state had added 2.1 million people, who are driving 2.6 billion more miles than in 1991, spending per person had dropped to $68.94.

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How the political mood at the Capitol shifted toward a tax hike for roads

Republicans and Democrats are negotiating a deal to pump money into roads, but opposition is mounting

By Brian Eason and John Frank, The Denver Post
January 22, 2017

Colorado needs $9 billion to improve roads and alleviate traffic congestion in the next 10 years — a number so large that state lawmakers are entertaining a once-unthinkable solution: a tax hike.

Democratic and Republican leaders are negotiating a measure for the November ballot to increase taxes and generate billions of dollars for transportation projects across the state, including the expansion of Interstate 25 north and south of Denver and Interstate 70 through the mountains.

The early discussions represent a significant shift in the political mood at the Capitol, particularly in a state where all tax hikes must go to the voters and conservative forces hold immense influence. The proposal, most likely a sales-tax increase, is expected to include other tax cuts in the first years as an offset.

If the legislature referred a statewide tax hike to the ballot, it would be the first of its kind in 25 years.

The only other tax hike that lawmakers put on the ballot since the approval of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in 1992 was Proposition AA in 2013 — which voters essentially sanctioned a year earlier with the passage of a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational pot sales.

Sandra Hagen Solin with Fix Colorado Roads, an organization pushing for a deal, said lawmakers are realizing “that the public is increasingly becoming frustrated with the transportation system.”

“It’s remarkable that the conversation is occurring,” she continued. “And I think that’s why we are encouraged by the potential of a solution being brought forward before the session ends.”

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