Wider interstate lanes are a top priority in a statewide transportation plan being drafted at the Capitol. Wednesday, 64 elected officials from across Colorado signed a letter urging legislative leaders to consider other forms of transportation, including transit and bike paths.
"Multimodal transportation is often thought of as benefiting urban areas, but as a local elected official I see everyday how important these options also are for rural communities," Grand Junction City Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein said in a statement. "Every community is different and has different needs, but we all deserve support to improve our mobility options and to address our regional transportation needs."
Those endorsing the letter include the mayors of Aspen, Boulder, Edgewater, La Junta, Lamar, Longmont, Palisade, Telluride, Trinidad, Vail and Wheat Ridge, as well as dozens of council members and county commissioners from across the state.
The letter was addressed to Senate President Kevin Grantham, House Speaker Crisanta Duran, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville.
"Every community is different and has different needs," the letter states. "Our constituents want a transportation system that is safe, modern and provides greater mobility options. In addition to funding roads and bridges, they want to see significant investments in public transportation, safer walkways and bicycling infrastructure."
They might be in luck. Last week Duran and Grantham told a meeting of business leaders in Denver the statewide transportation plan they are drafting would build in flexibility to allow local leaders to set priorities for their share of the money.
If the legislature cannot reach agreement, however, or if a ballot initiative fails, big cities could address their needs and leave small towns, rural communities and crowded stretches of interstate behind, Duran has said.
Voters in November could ultimately decide any tax increase to pay for the statewide plan. Duran said the state would need to pay back $250 million to $300 million a year. Leaders have said they might propose a hike in the state gas or sales tax, along with money from the existing state budget.
The local leaders said in their letter Wednesday:
"Whether it's safe routes to schools, elderly or disabled residents being able to access medical care, or commuting to work, having non-driving options is critical. It is particularly important to have affordable options for low-income communities who rely on diverse modes of transportation. Building highways and expanding roadways work in some communities, but for our communities the needs are greater than just new lane miles. In each one of our communities there are important multimodal projects that need additional funding."