Two good choices to fix transportation mess

Last month I wrote about two transportation measures on the state ballot in November and listed the pros and cons of each.

This month I want to do a brief refresher on the two measures but start with a review of the sorry state of transportation in Colorado as a setup to that discussion.

Mobility is a key factor for quality of life and economic vitality. Where we live, play and work is influenced by our ability to move around freely and safely. Mobility impacts the goods we consume, the services we use and their costs.

Congested and unsafe roads dramatically limit our choices, waste our time, and financially harm us. Coloradans know all this as demonstrated by public opinion polling. Nine out of 10 likely voters believe the state’s roads and bridges are desperately in need of attention.

From a business perspective, highway accessibility is ranked by corporate survey respondents as the top site selection factor in the 2018 annual survey of Area Development Magazine.

Unfortunately, the state of Colorado has an unfunded transportation project list of $9 billion and underspends on transportation by $1 billion annually.

In short, we are not putting nearly enough money into our transportation system, and you feel it almost every time you get on the interstate or a state highway.

This is true in most parts of Colorado, but particularly along the Front Range from Colorado Springs, through Denver, through Fort Collins to Wellington. Of special note is the neglect of North I-25. Until the three-mile climbing lane was built on southbound Berthoud hill in 2016-17, no capacity improvements had been made to North I-25 between Colorado Highway 66 north of Longmont and the Wyoming border since the interstate opened a half-century ago in 1968.

During that half-century, the population of the Larimer-Weld region had nearly quadrupled from 168,497 to 648,609. The two-county region is one of the fastest growing and economically important regions of Colorado with the population expected to surpass 1 million by 2040.

The past inattention to North I-25 combined with population growth has reduced the flow of traffic to Level of Service D (i.e., speed declines; freedom to maneuver more limited) on its way to LOS F (i.e., breakdown of flow) by 2030 or so, meaning that trips from Fort Collins to Denver and DIA could routinely take up to three hours to travel 63 and 69 miles, respectively.

Fixing this issue will require eventually adding two additional lanes each way between Colorado Highway 14 in Fort Collins and Colorado Highway 66 in Longmont. Work started last month on an additional lane each way between Fort Collins and Loveland and by 2031 we’ll need to add the fourth lane.

Local government and business leaders of the two-county region have worked closely with CDOT to get the climbing lane built, rebuild the bridges over Crossroads Boulevard, and secured funding for the additional lane from Fort Collins to south Loveland, and some money to start work on projects between Loveland and Longmont. But much more needs to get done.

To that end, when you get your ballot in mid-October, you’ll see two transportation measures.

Proposition 109 (Fix Our Damn Roads) would utilize existing tax dollars and inject $3.5 billion into the state highway system by issuing bonds and passage would commit securing them with $150 million annually from the general fund.

Proposition 110 (Let’s Go, Colorado) would inject $20 billion into the state and local transportation system, including state highways, local transportation projects and multi-modal transit projects over 20 years via a .62 percent dedicated sales tax.  It would also direct the issuance of bonds to jump start projects. Additionally, passage would commit $150 million annually from the state’s general fund.

This will be the first time since TRANS bonds were approved in 1999 that voters will be able to directly influence transportation funding in Colorado.

The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce has endorsed both measures.

David May is CEO and president of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.

Last month I wrote about two transportation measures on the state ballot in November and listed the pros and cons of each.

This month I want to do a brief refresher on the two measures but start with a review of the sorry state of transportation in Colorado as a setup to that discussion.

Mobility is a key factor for quality of life and economic vitality. Where we live, play and work is influenced by our ability to move around freely and safely. Mobility impacts the goods we consume, the services we use and their costs.

Congested and unsafe roads dramatically limit our choices, waste our time, and financially harm us. Coloradans know all this as demonstrated by public opinion polling. Nine out of 10 likely voters believe the state’s roads and bridges are desperately in need of attention.

From a business perspective, highway accessibility is ranked by corporate survey respondents as the top site selection factor in the 2018 annual survey of Area Development Magazine.

Unfortunately, the state of Colorado has an unfunded transportation project list of $9 billion and underspends on transportation by $1 billion annually.

In short, we are not putting nearly enough money into our transportation system, and you feel it almost every time you get on the interstate or a state highway.

This is true in most parts of Colorado, but particularly along the Front Range from Colorado Springs, through Denver, through Fort Collins…