Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority board members trumpeted a milestone last week when the 50th and final project on their A list had design funding approved.
PPRTA was passed by El Paso County voters in 2004 and instituted a 1 percent sales tax to fund road and bridge improvements. There were A, B and C lists of specific projects — with one list required to be completed before the next, beginning with A.
Ballot question 5A asks voters to extend 55 percent of that penny per dollar tax to fund more capital projects. The other 45 percent — 35 percent for road maintenance and 10 percent for transit — does not sunset Dec. 31, 2014.
If 5A passes, the 55 percent for capital projects would sunset Dec. 31, 2024.
“It’s a renewal, not a new tax,” said County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, who is chairman of PPRTA’s board. “PPRTA has allowed us to do many great things. We’ve probably put out more asphalt and done more maintenance overlays in the last seven years than we did the previous 20, just because a funding mechanism was in place.
“We’ve had lots of successes and taken care of a lot of capital projects, but we still have a need for major expansions and rebuilds. We need that funding mechanism to do that.”
Ballot question 5A includes an A and B list of 150 projects “in every part of the region,” said Rachel Beck, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Extend PPRTA. “The lists have been vetted at more than 40 public meetings.”
Members of PPRTA include the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Ramah, which joined in 2009.
“PPRTA allows our local governments to work together to solve our area’s transportation problems,” Beck said.
Top projects of PPRTA in the past eight years include rebuilding the Cimarron Street bridge, Woodmen and I-25 interchange, Union and Austin Bluffs interchange, Union and Fillmore, Marksheffel Road and the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail. PPRTA funds contributed to the Woodmen and Academy interchange and enabled the group to obtain $26 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to finish the job.
PPRTA board member Marc Snyder, mayor of Manitou Springs, said 67 percent of area transit is funded by PPRTA dollars.
Still, there are opponents of 5A.
“A tax at that time is not good,” former County Commissioner Douglas Bruce said. “(Republican Presidential candidate Mitt) Romney has said we need to cut taxes to stimulate the economy. You don’t raise taxes to do that.”
Bruce said putting the issue on the ballot two years ahead of its sunset is suspicious.
“If they lose this time, they can do it next November and the next November,” he said.
“I think that’s reprehensible. It was promised to be temporary; it’s the same old foot-in-the-door scam. People shouldn’t fall for that.”
Rob MacDonald, secretary of the PPRTA board and executive director of Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, said 5A is on the ballot to avoid a “lag time” in planning and executing projects.
Through 2011, collections from the sales tax for PPRTA were $470,856,154, with $258,970,885 going for capital A list projects.
“There is action on every A list project,” MacDonald said. “The earliest we’d probably get to anything on the B list would be the 2014 budget.”
Tax collections for the first eight months of 2012 are $2.9 million ahead of projections, which figures a budget of $69 million for the year.
Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens