A Transportation Solution Still is Within Reach

By Senators Tim Neville and John Cooke

Over the last few months, we’ve listened to our constituents tell us how unmanaged traffic congestion and damaged highways affect their everyday lives and our State’s overall economy. These citizens have helped shape our thoughts on how to best address a matter that affects every Coloradan.

Taxpayers are frustrated with the lack of our state government’s action to improve the safety and efficiency of our highway system. Many are concerned that over 41% of our urban state highways are in poor condition and many of our bridges are deficient. The business community indicated these problems make them less competitive due to increased costs, while those in economic development suggested that companies are choosing surrounding states instead of Colorado due to our transportation problems. Most importantly, we heard personal stories of additional commute time, greater fuel use, and higher vehicle maintenance associated with our lack of investment. This is an economic issue for our businesses and a safety issue for our families.

To the credit of Senate President Kevin Grantham and Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, they recognized the importance of transportation funding and made it a priority for the 2017 General Assembly. We certainly concur with the problems that our colleagues have outlined and commend those in leadership for bringing attention and a sense of urgency to this problem. As a legislature, we can’t continue to “kick the can down the road.” Fixing our roads and bridges must be a priority, not an afterthought.

Our long-neglected state highway system is an estimated multi-billion dollar asset that accounts for 59% of all vehicle miles traveled in the state – and more than 40% of overall travel occurs solely on the interstate highway system that ties our state together. It is no wonder the public is frustrated with the lack of action on I-25 and I-70. Other roadways would also receive funding under our proposal, and this is one of the main benefits to SB 303: accountability and transparency for the public. We list out specific projects that will be completed and specific stretches of road that will be fixed. This measure provides a high level of transparency and accountability so that the public can be assured that the tax dollars they’re already paying will be spent wisely. 

Instead of imposing a giant sales tax hike, SB 303 would allow voters to secure a bond that will enable our state to accelerate vital roads and bridges projects that CDOT has already identified. In addition to the bond, our proposal provides a sound framework to fund our transportation system in the future as well. Because keeping our roads and bridges safe is a core, critical function of state government, our bill requires that ongoing revenue from our General Fund must be dedicated to this effort every year. If we as a legislature are not willing to make such an investment in our roads and bridges, how can we ask taxpayers to assume a large debt to offer bonds? 

Our proposal looks to build upon the successful bond program which helped construct the TREX project on I-25. The TREX project is a model that states across the nation now look to because of its success and popularity among taxpayers.

We refuse to believe we cannot fix our transportation problems and make our highways safe and efficient. It is possible to relieve traffic congestion and keep our roads, our bridges, and our drivers safe. We believe that time still exists for a solution and that a consensus can be forged. If we come together, this proposal can not only pass the legislature, but also prevail on the ballot this fall. 

Let us remember that our congested highways, potholed roads, and deteriorating bridges make no distinction as to whether the driver is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. The impact is all the same and we will all pay a higher price for inaction.

Neville represents Senate District 16, and Cooke represents Senate District 13, in the Colorado General Assembly.

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