If voters approve a certain sales tax increase Nov. 6, the Pikes Peak region will be on track to see improved highways, from extra lanes on Interstate 25 to upgraded rural thoroughfares such as Colorado 94 and U.S. 24 East.
Proposition 110 would raise the state sales tax by 0.62 percent — 6 cents per $10 purchase — for 20 years and allow the state to borrow up to $6 billion for transportation projects. The sales tax revenue would repay the debt and finance more than 100 projects on a list approved by the state Transportation Commission in July. That to-do list includes widening I-25 to eight lanes from Cimarron Street to Briargate Parkway and building transit hubs in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs.
The revenue also would fund multi-modal transportation projects and bolster county and municipal transportation budgets.
Another measure, Proposition 109, would allow the state to borrow up to $3.5 billion in 2019 to use on 66 specific projects. That list would have to be thinned, though, because the projects are estimated to cost $5.6 billion.
Several projects in that proposal overlap with the Proposition 110 list. Both could fund intersection and drainage improvements along Ute Pass on U.S. 24, a new interchange at North Powers Boulevard and Research Parkway, and a widening of I-25 to six lanes from South Academy Boulevard to Lake Avenue.
The Proposition 109 bond issue also could fund an “interim continuous-flow intersection” to ease traffic flow on North Powers Boulevard from Constitution Avenue to North Carefree Circle.
Proponents of 109 say it will force the state to prioritize important infrastructure projects after years of under-investment in Colorado’s transportation system. And it wouldn’t raise taxes, unlike Proposition 110, they say.
Opponents, however, say any economic downturn would force the state to take money from other important areas, such as education and health care, to repay the debt — about $260 million a year for 20 years, including interest.
Other skeptics say a more long-term solution is needed rather than one big bond issue.
“The reality is that El Paso County and all of its municipalities have over $4 billion in unfunded transportation projects and no other potential sources of funds to cover the related public desire to minimize congestion growth and safety,” said Rocky Scott, who represents the county on the Transportation Commission and supports Proposition 110.
“The cost of transportation funding inaction to the citizens and businesses of El Paso County will be much higher than the sales taxes involved in Proposition 110,” Scott said.
Local critics of the sales tax increase argue that Pikes Peak region taxpayers already pay more than other Colorado areas for road maintenance and improvements.
That’s because of the voter-approved Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which collects a 1 percent sales tax from residents and visitors in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain and other area jurisdictions.
Also, Colorado Springs voters approved a city sales tax increase of 0.62 percent in 2015 to fund road repairs, maintenance and other improvements.
Mayor John Suthers has said that if Proposition 110 passes, his administration won’t seek to renew that roads tax, known as 2C, in 2020 because sales tax rates will be exorbitant.
Proposition 110 would provide about $20 million a year to Colorado Springs, but 2C now generates about $50 million annually. So the city would lose about $30 million a year for transportation if voters approve the new sales tax increase, Suthers has said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation estimates that Proposition 110 also would generate these revenues in the Pikes Peak region:
• El Paso County: $10 million in the first year; $286 million over 20 years
• Teller County: $2 million in the first year; $52 million over 20 years
• Calhan: $36,000 in the first year; $1 million over 20 years
• Fountain: $767,000 in the first year; $22 million over 20 years
• Green Mountain Falls: $32,000 in the first year; $900,000 over 20 years
• Manitou Springs: $180,000 in the first year; $5 million over 20 years
• Monument: $228,000 in the first year; $6 million over 20 years
• Palmer Lake: $108,000 in the first year; $3 million over 20 years
• Woodland Park: $343,000 in the first year; $10 million over 20 years
If both propositions pass, the courts will decide if the policies conflict before either takes effect, said CDOT spokeswoman Michelle Peulen.