Bringing the Coalition Together
To start the new year and the new decade, Commuting Solutions was joined by a powerhouse lineup of speakers at our 11th Legislative Breakfast to set the tone for the legislative session ahead of us. On January 6, public and private sector stakeholders, elected officials and transportation advocates and businesses gathered at the Aloft Hotel in Broomfield to talk about what we need to do, as a coalition and a region, to make our multimodal vision become a reality, starting with our 2020 transportation priorities.
The State of Transportation in Colorado
The unfortunate reality in our state is that transportation needs to be funded and we can’t agree on how. With the defeat of Proposition 110 and Proposition CC in the past two statewide elections, it’s becoming clear that what’s being done isn’t working so we need to be creative in finding a sustainable funding mechanism. Colorado is currently looking at a list of nearly $9 billion of unfunded transportation projects statewide. Republicans believe that the funding necessary can be found in the General Fund, while the Democrats want to find a dedicated, sustainable funding source for our current and future needs.
In our region alone, we are working to find funding for State Highway 119, State Highway 7, Peak Service Exploration for Northwest Rail and other projects.
If a statewide approach doesn’t start working, it may be necessary to look into regional or local funding sources for transportation. Whether that’s through Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) or Regional Transportation Authorities (RTAs), a regional approach may leave some areas of the state in further disrepair while other region choose to pursue their own funding.
To explore these topics and what lies ahead, we were joined by U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse, Governor Jared Polis, Broomfield Mayor, Pat Quinn, Speaker of the House KC Becker, Senator Faith Winter, Representative Matt Gray, Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor, RTD General Manager, David Genova, Brue Baukol founder Chad Brue, Senator Rachel Zenzinger and CDOT Executive Director, Shoshana Lew.
Here are a few of the key takeaways from the event.
Moving Forward with 2020 Vision
We have to continue to work together.
From organizations such as the Denver Regional Council of Governments to the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition, we have proved to be a force to be reckoned with when we work together. It was collaboration and persistence that brought the US 36 corridor from being a congested, slow-moving highway to one of the most effective multi-modal corridors in the state that is now being used a model across the nation. It was a resounding message touched on by all the speakers: together we are stronger and we can accomplish anything.
Funding NEEDS to be resolved.
Representative Matt Gray said it best when he said he doesn’t want to come to next year’s Legislative Breakfast with nothing to show or no progress made to address the significant transportation funding gap. In 2020, the biggest enemy we have won’t be the opposition, but if we finish the year without getting something across the finish line. Transportation funding cannot continue to be debated without getting any results. The longer it takes to figure out a solution, the larger the list of unfunded projects will become and the further behind we will fall in keeping our infrastructure in pace with our state’s growth.
Climate change and the environment are an integral part of the conversation.
No matter what funding mechanism we decide on or what innovations we integrate into our infrastructure, it’s all for nothing if we don’t start reducing our emissions and lessening our impact on the environment. Colorado Energy Office Director, Will Toor, discussed the electrification of our transportation and infrastructure, starting with Governor Polis’ zero emissions vehicle mandate from 2019. Transportation has become the largest source of emissions nationally, overtaking electricity. It’ll take a collaborative effort between the state, the auto industry and the general public to electrify transportation, but it can and will be done.
Transportation funding, sustainability and our future as a state depends on our ability to work together and continue to be creative around solving the problems in front of us. We have done it before as a region, and we will continue to do it again, until our multimodal vision, established in the Northwest Area Mobility Study, is fully realized and keeping us moving.