Chamber, EDC execs urge solution to ‘transportation crisis’

DENVER —  Leaders of chambers of commerce and economic-development organizations from across Colorado have signed letters to Gov. John Hickenlooper and leaders of the Colorado House and Senate reminding them of their promise to come up with funding to solve what they call a “transportation crisis.”

The letters urge the politicians to follow through on their promise to fund a $9 billion funding gap to repair and widen roads throughout the state.

A funding mechanism has yet to be introduced.

“Leaders from communities across the state and from critical corridors in every region know a solution will have to bring both sides of the aisle together,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, spokeswoman for Fix Colorado Roads. “We agree that a politically viable solution will have to respect the will of the voter, restore Colorado’s commitment to transportation within our state budget and establish a new funding source.”

In a letter presented by Fix Colorado roads, signed by 23 leaders, Fort Collins’ chamber president, David May, one of several people representing Northern Colorado, said,  “Every day, we hear from our chamber members and employers about the challenges of moving materials and products and the growing commute times for employees. We all agree, it’s time we stopped talking about a funding solution and instead fix Colorado roads.”

Rich Werner, president of Greeley-based Upstate Colorado Economic Development, added, “It’s getting harder to explain the state’s insufficient investment in transportation infrastructure to our prospects. It’s time for a balanced compromise plan to restore Colorado’s commitment to transportation investment.

The Northwest Chamber Alliance, which represents approximately 2,500 businesses and 100,000 employees in Boulder and Broomfield counties, is asking legislators to refer a transportation funding measure to voters.

John Tayer, chief executive of the Boulder Chamber, Bruce Partain, CEO of the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce, and Jennifer Kerr, CEO of Access Broomfield Chamber, said transportation networks have failed to keep up with the state’s growth. “This translates into real harm to the economy and to quality of life,” they wrote.

They made these points.

  • By not maintaining roads and bridges, it makes roads less safe, and can add hundreds of dollars a year to the cost of maintaining a car.
  • When traffic jams and a lack of public transit options make it hard for people to get to work, it harms quality of life for employees and makes it harder for companies to find qualified workers.
  • Without safe places for people to walk and bike, they are forced into their cars for short trips, further clogging our roads.

They also pointed out that the biggest source of funding, the state gas tax, was last raised in 1992. While the gas tax remained fixed, the cost of everything else went up, they said, explaining that 25 years of inflation have reduced the purchasing power of a dollar of state gas tax by more than 60 percent.

“Adjusting for inflation, the Colorado Department of Transportation now has revenues that are lower than they were in 1991 — despite the fact that the state has millions more people to serve.”

They said any funding measure should reflect that transportation needs are diverse — state highways, local roads, public transit, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements; that it must be clearly articulated want funds will be used for; and that a portion of the funds must go to local governments to fix local streets, repairing fix potholes or making it safer for kids to cross the street.