A Republican proposal that could put Colorado in the fast lane to a major infrastructure upgrade gained ground at the Statehouse Thursday with passage of SB-272 by the Senate Transportation Committee. It would refer a measure to the ballot aimed at extending a soon to be paid-off transportation bond and using the $3.5 billion to address the state’s top transportation and transit priorities.
Voter approval of the proposed ballot measure would help fast-track construction of critical road, bridge and transit projects, as identified by the Colorado Department of Transportation, without raising taxes. Bonds would be repaid using a portion of annual federal and state gas tax revenues. It’s a way to speed the modernization of critical infrastructure that hasn’t kept pace with population growth, backers say. Failure to act now will only add to Colorado’s mounting backlog of unaddressed transportation needs.
“Instead of just plodding along the way we are now, trying to keep up but gradually falling behind, this ballot measure, if approved by voters, will speed completion of projects that otherwise will take decades to get done,” said one key sponsor of the bill, Senator Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulfur Springs). “Without raising taxes, and with the blessing of voters, we could put people to work, help the state’s economy and finally tackle a long list of top priority transportation and transit needs.”
The bill asks voters for approval to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs) worth $3.5 billion, for the funding of 58 projects across the state. This would simply extend TRANs bonds first issued by Colorado in 1999 which will soon be paid off. By issuing these notes, Colorado can address its transportation challenges relatively quickly, without increasing taxes or taking money from other government priorities.
One recent poll suggests strong public support for the idea. But Baumgardner believes it will have broad bipartisan appeal because there’s no favoritism in how the projects are picked and prioritized.
“This won’t just fund projects along the Front Range, but projects all across the state which the Colorado Department of Transportation already has identified as of critical importance,” said Baumgardner. “This is a proven way for Colorado to catch-up with our aging infrastructure and I think voters will support it if given the chance.”
SB-272 now moves to the entire Senate for consideration.