Fix Colorado Roads Act Killed in Last Days of Session

May 10, 2016 | Uncategorized

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things just don’t go your way.  That’s the unfortunate news that we have to report regarding SB16-210, the Fix Colorado Roads Act, which died in the Colorado House of Representatives State Affairs Committee today, 4 to 5.

The bill got caught up in last minute partisan wrangling over other issues including Democrat proposals to increase taxes on oil and gas producers and reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise fund. Both were rebuffed or ignored by Republicans. In the quid pro quo world of politics, the other side had to pay. So, a transportation bill that generally had bi-partisan support but promoted by Republicans was doomed.

The Act, sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Randy Baumgardner and House Majority Leader Brian Del Grosso, would have created a robust funding and finance program through the renewal of existing transportation bonds backed by a commitment from the state’s general fund and a small portion of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s budget.

The $3.5 billion Fix Colorado Roads bond program, which would have required no new taxes, would have accelerated construction of important road projects statewide.  Among the signature expansion projects included would have been:

  • I-70 West: ROD (record of decision) projects throughout the corridor plus seed funding for the next phase of expansion
  • North I-25: State Highway 14 south to US 36
  • South I-25:Monument Hill to Castle Rock and the New Pueblo Freeway

The Fix Colorado Roads bond program would have been referred to voters by the Legislature for the November 2016 ballot.

The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance worked hard to craft and position the Fix Colorado Roads Act and had gained the support of a number of key business organizations including the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, Colorado Counties, Inc., Colorado Concern, Colorado Business Roundtable, NFIB, Upstate Colorado Economic Development, Weld County, Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce, Colorado-Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, South Metro Chamber of Commerce, Loveland Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Motor Carriers Association, Colorado Association of Realtors, Vail Valley Partnership, Greeley Chamber of Commerce, Jefferson County Business Lobby, Colorado Contractors Association and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry.

Legislative inaction flies in the face of public opinion. Polling by the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance shows that 90 percent of Coloradans believe that the state’s roads and bridges are in dire need of repair, and large majorities want transportation funding to be a priority for the state. Unfortunately, the Legislature once again tanked on transportation funding.

While we have to wait for the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly to attempt another permanent fix for transportation funding (Fact: the revenue of state government has grown by $3 billion since 2009 and NONE of it has been devoted to transportation), progress is being made, including:

  • Construction on a ‘climbing lane’ on the Berthoud Hill on southbound I-25 south of Loveland will start on May 16 and will be completed this year;
  • Reconstruction of the Crossroads interchange will start this year and will be completed by the end of 2017;
  • CDOT has teamed up with area communities to propose a $235million Phase 1 project to widen the interstate between Highway 14 in Fort Collins to just south of 402 on the south side of Loveland. Local communities and land owners have contributed nearly $25million and CDOT and the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization have applied for a couple of federal grants. A large part of the funding would come from a low-interest loan. We should know the outcome in the fall.
  • The Colorado Contractors Association is considering petitioning a dedicated transportation sales tax onto the fall ballot; we will be watching this closely.

As frustrating as the outcome in the Legislature was, amazing work was done by leaders in Northern Colorado. House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso was a remarkable advocate and leader. The Fix North I-25 Business Alliance Leadership Council includes Tom Gendron, Woodward; Troy McWhinney, McWhinney Enterprises; Curt Richardson, Blue Ocean Enterprises and Otter Products; and Mike Dellenbach, Dellenbach Motors. The Fix North I-25 Steering Committee includes me, Barb Koelzer, Carl Maxey, Pete Gazlay, Tom Norton, Sarah MacQuiddy, Mindy McCloughan, Ann Hutchison, Bill Becker, Steve Tool, and Tambor Williams. They put in a lot of time and effort at various places along the way. Local elected officials that deserve special acknowledgement are Fort Collins City Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak, Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly and Weld County Commissioners Barb Kirkmeyer and Sean Conway. Hats off to the Greeley and Loveland Chambers of Commerce and the board of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance. And thank you to all of the financial donors that underwrite the cost of this effort, which is substantial. My apologies for forgetting anyone, but the key point here is that lots of people are involved.

My final praise is for Sandra Solin of Capitol Solutions. Sandra is our key lobbyist for this effort and was tireless in her work, creative in trying to find solutions, smart and insightful and undaunted in the face of obstacles. She carried this farther than most people thought possible.

We’ll stay on this until we get I-25 widened to 3 lanes each way from Highway 14 in Fort Collins to Highway 66 north of Longmont.