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Colorado Transportation Panel Takes Highway Funding Proposals on the Road to Build Public Support

Colorado’s Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel, a Blue Ribbon group appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to study the state’s transportation ...

September 10, 2008

Colorado’s Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel, a Blue Ribbon group appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to study the state’s transportation crisis and deliver recommendations, is planning a road show in two dozen locations across the state in the next few months in an effort to build support for its conclusions.

The road show comes after Gov. Ritter directed the panel in June 2008 to embark on a campaign to educate the public about the state’s dire transportation funding situation and to craft specific proposals to be considered during the 2009 legislative session.

"We are poised to engage our local elected officials and community leaders to join in our efforts to build and enhance our transportation system," explained Carla Perez, senior policy advisory for Governor Ritter. "Transportation investment is crucial to our economic viability, job creation and individual mobility and accessibility.  We are engaging in this public education effort to broaden our coalition of support for transportation and work toward solutions for 2009 consideration."

The 32 member panel, formed in April 2007, along with its technical advisory council, met dozens of times around Colorado and completed deliberations Nov. 15, 2007. In January 2008, they produced a "Report to Colorado" identifying the "quiet crisis" facing transportation funding in the state. All meeting materials are posted at www.colorado.gov/governor.

The state’s gasoline tax, Colorado’s primary source of transportation funding, has not increased since 1991. Since 1997, the legislature has allocated additional revenue from the general fund to supplement the gas tax in good economic years. However, the funding is sporadic, unpredictable and often utilized for other legislative priorities.

Where Transportation Dollars Should be Spent

The first phase of the panel’s recommendations focuses on how future transportation dollars should be invested. The panel recommended the following:

  • Mobility investments in large corridor reconstruction projects statewide to address safety and congestion.
  • Shoulder improvements to address impacts of increased agricultural and oil-and-gas activities as well as bicycle, pedestrian and overall safety.
  • Transit enhancements in both urban and rural areas to address human service/health access, and job and recreation needs.
  • Environmental stewardship to mitigate impacts.
  • Bike/pedestrian enhancement, including safe routes to schools, and to encourage reduction in vehicle use and provide safe walking environments.
  • Allocation for local governments to invest in roadways and transit, recognizing both are part of the broader transportation network.

Funding Source Recommendations

The second phase of the panel’s recommendations deals with funding thresholds and potential revenue sources:

  • Preferred threshold - $1.5 billion annually
  • Additional options include $2 billion, $1 billion and $500 million

$1.5 billion Funding Sources Recommendation

Revenue Sources

Revenue Source

Incremental Fee or Tax

Revenue Generated*

Increased Vehicle Reg. Fee

$100 average fee increase

$500 million

Increased Motor Fuel Tax

13¢ per gallon

$351 million

New Daily Visitor Fee

$6 daily fee

$240 million

Increased Sales & Use Tax

.35% increase

$312 million

Increased Severance Tax

1.7% effective increase

$96 million

All of the above would require voter approval under Colorado state law except increased vehicle registration fees and new daily visitor fees (taxes on rental cars and hotel rooms).

The big question remains as to whether the Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel’s 24-stop road show can sell Colorado voters on its recommendations. A list of the panel’s road show dates can be found on the Colorado Contractors Association website. click here.

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