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Voters overwhelmingly back regional tax for I-25 widening

November 7, 2017 Updated: November 8, 2017 at 8:17 am
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Looking north towards Castle Rock Thursday, Deceber 22, 2016 as heavy traffic moves along I-25 which is two lanes in each direction. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

A measure designating regional transportation tax revenue as a funding source for widening Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock passed with overwhelming support Tuesday night.

Issue 5B will add the so-called I-25 "Gap" to a list of projects that the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority can fund and set aside $10 million for the widening in future tax revenues - if state and local leaders can come up with the rest of the money needed to pay for the project's estimated cost of $350 million.

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With nearly all the votes counted, the measure was approved by nearly 66 percent of voters, according to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office. As of 9:45 p.m., 89,911 "yes" votes and 46,499 "no" votes had been counted.

Its passage - along with the success of a county measure that will provide at least $6 million in excess government revenue to pay for project - was hailed as a victory for the widening, which, until recently, had local and state leaders scratching their heads over who would foot the hefty bill.

"These initiatives are the catalysts that kick-started the project," El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller, vice chairman of the PPRTA Board of Directors, said of the measures.

Under the current proposal, one lane - a toll lane - would be added in each direction of the roughly 17-mile stretch of interstate.

A federal grant could generate up to $65 million for construction. If the project wins the highly-competitive grant, a state commission decided last month that the Colorado Department of Transportation will contribute $250 million more under a new law that's expected to generate money for infrastructure projects through the sale of state-owned buildings. Local entities would be expected to provide the remaining $35 million.

State transportation officials have said construction could begin in mid-2019 and end in 2021 if funding sources can be finalized.

"I'm very confident we are going to get that federal grant," Waller said. "Having these initiatives pass so significantly is going to be a signal to the federal government that this community is serious about these projects."

A committee that supported the two measures raised more than $90,000, Waller said. Much of the money was spent on radio advertising.

The PPRTA, which was voted into existence in 2004, is funded by a 1 percent sales tax collected in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, El Paso County, Green Mountain Falls and Ramah. Last year, the agency collected about $6 million in excess of its roughly $86 million budget.

While the PPRTA has a long list of projects to finance, adding I-25 isn't expected to detract from funds for other efforts. To pay for the widening, $5 million will be drawn from revenues that exceed the budget each year in 2018 and 2019 to pay for the widening, according to Rick Sonnenburg, program and contracts manager for the PPRTA. The money will only be spent on the roughly two-mile stretch of the Gap in El Paso County.

Before the funds are alloted to the project, the PPRTA has to sign off on another formality: each of its member governments must approve an amendment to an intergovernmental agreement that stipulates how the authority's tax revenues can be spent.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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