May: Governor’s leadership would make a difference on transportation

Jul 18, 2017 | Uncategorized

Colorado may have to look past John Hickenlooper for leadership on its highway woes

Two newspaper pieces about the lamentable condition of Colorado’s transportation funding situation caught my eye recently. One was a news story in our local paper; the other was a lead editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

In different ways, both are illustrating the need for political leadership to fix our state’s transportation problems.

The Coloradoan had a great story on the front page of the July 9 business section about the contrasting investments Colorado and Utah have made in transportation infrastructure as told by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at a recent event in Northern Colorado.

The key point of the story was Utah is investing in transportation infrastructure at a per capita level far above neighboring Colorado, which gives the state a significant competitive economic advantage.

Let me add a few additional points not included in the article:

  • Colorado is spending $1 billion per year less than it should on transportation.
  • Because of that, Colorado now has an accumulated backlog of $9 billion in transportation funding needs.
  • Colorado’s population, per projections by the state demographer, will be 7,752,000 by 2040, up from 5,541,000 today.
  • Over the same period, the population of Larimer County will grow by 52 percent and Weld County’s will more than double.
  • The Colorado gas tax has not been increased since 1991. Combine that with an increase in population since then, growth in vehicle miles traveled and inflation and the result is Colorado is spending 45 percent less per capita on transportation today.
  • Since 2009 the state budget has grown by more than $3 billion, but basically none of it has gone to transportation. State leaders have elected to spend it on non-transportation priorities.

While it was great to see the governor put attention on the transportation issue, he stopped short of saying what he was going to do about it as our top elected official.

Transportation funding will get addressed only when the state’s governor takes a firm and proactive stance and articulates options for fixing the problem. Hickenlooper has one more legislative session to do so.

While I haven’t given up on him, yet, others are already looking past Hickenlooper. On July 11 there was the piece in the Gazette titled “Editorial: Make Colorado gubernatorial race about our roads”.

The Gazette editorial board made a plea for leadership on transportation funding. It wrote, “Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Legislature have failed Coloradans for years … Hard-working taxpayers are left with dangerous highways and bridges. They are told nothing can be done. They’ll have to wait.

“Each party would benefit by quickly deciding on one candidate who can most passionately articulate a logical, affordable plan for leading a swift solution to the transportation crisis.

“Somebody, from either party, come forward with a pledge to solve the problem that undermines us all. It is far past time to fix the damn roads.”

Everybody knows we have a transportation problem, including the governor. We just need the political will and leadership to fix it.

Originally posted in the Fort Collins Coloradoan on July 14, 2017