Measure targeted regional transportation panels

A bill that would have done away with the regional transportation planning panels around the state died in a House committee Wednesday.

Rep. Glenn Vaad, R-Mead, had hoped to remake how the state plans road and bridge construction, but his bill was killed by the House Transportation Committee after more than an hour of testimony.

Vaad said the time has not yet come for his idea, but that others in the state soon will see the current system isn’t working.

“I realize that this is a provocative, if not radical, departure from the way we do things right now, but I think we have to get the issue on the table to talk outside the box,” he told the committee.

The measure would have done away with the 10 transportation planning regions operating in the state and kept the five metropolitan planning organizations, including the one that operates in Mesa County. Those 15 groups advise the Colorado Transportation Commission on which projects have a higher priority in their areas, which the commission uses to determine what projects will get funded statewide.

In its place, the bill called for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s regional transportation directors and regional commissioners to take direct control over setting those priorities.

Proponents of the measure said the idea was needed because the 10 regions base their decisions on parochial needs, rather than statewide needs.

Dick Prosence, a retired CDOT district engineer who worked in Grand Junction in the 1970s, said a more global perspective is needed when deciding which transportation projects should be done.

“You’re not examining actual need, you’re locked into a process that’s been established through bureaucracy,” said the 86-year-old, who now lives in Meeker. “The regional planning districts are generally quite provincial, and they just look at what they think is their big problem without regard for statewide or district-wide problems.”

But lobbyist Dianna Orf, who represents the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, said regional transportation groups do talk to each other.

Orf said the bill would have reduced cooperation between cities and counties in getting transportation projects done.

“There’s a lot of collaboration that goes on,” she said. “We gain a much better understanding of the needs throughout the area, and they have a better understanding of our needs. The local perspective has a stronger voice this way.”

Todd Hollenbeck, manager of the Mesa County Regional Transportation Planning Office, said the measure would have prevented the Grand Valley Transportation Planning Region from considering the transportation needs of such rural areas as Mack, Loma, Gateway and Collbran in setting its priorities.


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