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GUEST COLUMN: Addressing our state transportation funding crisis

By: Terri Carver
March 21, 2017 Updated: March 24, 2017 at 8:16 am
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The roads and bridges throughout Colorado are deteriorating. We have not adequately funded our transportation infrastructure to keep pace with our growing population. There are several bills in this legislative session on increased transportation funding. I have introduced legislation (HB 1171) with Rep. Perry Buck to address three components of our state transportation infrastructure crisis:

Fund our Priority Projects: The bill would send a ballot measure to the voters in November seeking approval of a $3.5 billion transportation bond issue. The bond issue would be used for state-wide priority projects already identified and listed in HB 1171. One of the listed priority projects is the widening of I-25 from Monument to Castle Rock.

It is essential that the projects to receive Transportation Revenue Anticipation Notes T(RANs) bond funding be listed in the legislation and the ballot measure - and not left to the discretion of a state agency or commission. The state legislators and the voters must know what projects will be funded with the bond issue. Accountability and transparency are part of keeping faith with the voters.

HB 1171 uses the latest state-wide priority list of transportation projects already vetted by local transportation planning regions across the state, CDOT, and Colorado Transportation Commission. A state transportation funding solution must address the priority projects of the entire state. HB 1171 uses the priority list of projects that have gone through this local and state project review process.

This transportation bond proposal is very similar to the TRANs bond that Colorado voters approved in 1999. Colorado paid off the 1999 TRANs bond in December 2016.

Paying for State Transportation Infrastructure and Maintenance: My bill would designate 10 percent of current state sales tax within the state General Fund for transportation funding. This designated transportation funding would be used to pay off the $3.5 billion transportation bond (20-year repayment), and provide a growing funding stream for CDOT's backlog of transportation maintenance.

Prior to 2009, Colorado used a similar approach for state transportation funding. Colorado designated 10.355 percent of the state sales and use tax for transportation funding, as part of a statutory formula. In 2009, the Colorado Legislature ended the 10.355 percent of state sales tax for transportation, and made transportation funding from the state General Fund contingent on certain income growth criteria. Unfortunately, this resulted in NO transportation funding from the state General Fund from 2009-2016. And we see the result in our deteriorating roads and increased traffic congestion. Transportation funding is a core government function, and should be a priority for funding in the state General Fund.

Improve CDOT contracting process: Finally, HB 1171 makes several changes in the CDOT transportation project acquisition rules to open up the bidding process to more competition and increase transparency. These reforms will help ensure our taxpayer dollars are used efficiently.

I am committed to finding a viable solution to our state transportation funding challenges this year. I welcome your comments and questions (email: terri.carver.house@state.co.us)

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Terri Carver is State Representative for House District 20.

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