Even with vehicle fees, more money needed for roads

Coloradans have a conservatively estimated $500 million per year unfunded liability on public bridges, highways, interchanges and tunnels. While that’s a staggering sum in any single year, the cumulative effect year after year undermines road safety and our state’s economic recovery. That Colorado’s people, families, businesses and leaders continue accumulating a $500 million annual deferred maintenance debt is unsustainable.

That $500 million annual buildup, however, disguises the full magnitude of the “quiet crisis” Coloradans now confront.

If Coloradans intend to significantly reduce traffic congestion, establish better connections between regions within the state, improve local roads and strategically expand transit options, we need to invest three times that amount — at least $1.5 billion — in new, annually dedicated, inflation adjusted revenue.

On behalf of the Colorado Contractors Association, our construction, equipment, goods-and service-provider companies, and the over 30,000 workers our members collectively employ, I invite all readers to join the men and women of CCA in consciously choosing a path to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality for all Coloradans.

Colorado legislators and Gov. Bill Ritter a few months ago approved Senate Bill 108 — dubbed the FASTER bill.

FASTER creates weight-based bridge-safety and road-safety fees on all motor vehicles, and a $2 daily car rental fee. Because over 80 percent of all vehicles registered in Colorado weigh less than 5,000 pounds, most Coloradans will pay $41 more per vehicle per year (about $3.42 a month) on their vehicle registration bill.

The Colorado Department of Transportation projects that, when fully implemented, FASTER will generate about $250 million per year to help. It will:

✓ Save, restore and create Colorado jobs and jumpstart the economy;

✓ Accelerate repair and construction of Colorado’s most urgent bridge and road safety or maintenance priorities;

✓ Invest in Colorado’s most urgent transit infrastructure priorities;

✓ Reduce Colorado’s $1.5 billion annual transportation infrastructure funding shortfall.

While FASTER is an important step forward, the $250 million a year it will raise when fully implemented represents, in inflation-adjusted terms, a mere one-sixth of Colorado’s annual $1.5 billion transportation need.

I hope Coloradans recognize that in paying FASTER’s new road and bridge safety fees, or $2 daily car rental fee, we save a neighbor’s job and take a modest, but vital, step toward stabilizing Colorado’s deteriorating infrastructure and economy.

Looking beyond FASTER, what’s next? What do Coloradans believe are the wisest ways to save, restore and create jobs, safeguard road safety and enhance our collective quality of life?

How do we intend to pay for the CDOT services on which so many rely — and so many take for granted? Mountain-pass snow removal, rock-fall mitigation, right-of-way weed mowing and litter clean-up, highway resurfacing, de-icing and sanding are but a few of the public services CDOT provides.

I invite all Coloradans to engage state and local leaders in a candid, statewide, problem-solving dialogue about not “if,” but “how,” we value our public infrastructure and collective quality of life and future.

Even with FASTER, without substantial new, annually dedicated, inflation adjusted funding, Colorado’s transportation infrastructure will continue to deteriorate at the rate of at least $500 million per year. Failure to address that deferred maintenance backlog soon will compromise road safety, undermine Colorado’s competitive edge in the region and cost Colorado’s taxpayers, transportation system users and economy more in future years.

So, the next time you have an opportunity, thank Gov. Ritter, legislators and local officials for their collective courage and responsible leadership on the FASTER bill.

Then, ask them to look forward. Ask them to share with you their respective $500 million to $1.5 billion transportation infrastructure solutions. Ask yourself what your $500 million to $1.5 billion solution would be.

Let the problem-solving discussions begin.


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