Colorado drivers could have to pay $23 a year for roads |

Colorado drivers could have to pay $23 a year for roads

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Colorado drivers could be charged an extra $23 a year or more to help catch up with backlogged projects to fix the state’s bridges and roads under a proposal being negotiated at the state Capitol.

The proposal also sets the stage for drivers to pay more for transportation in the future. The ideas include allowing tolling on existing state highways and charging drivers based on the number of miles they drive.

The draft bill from Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, and Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, is set to be officially unveiled by Gov. Bill Ritter on Wednesday. It would raise about $250 million from the vehicle fees to fix 125 bridges considered structurally deficient and catch up on road maintenance projects over four years. The money to fix the other problem bridge on the state’s list ” the Interstate 70 overpass near the Denver Coliseum ” would have to come from somewhere else.

The proposed fees would be based on vehicle weight and would be on top of the annual registration fees drivers pay, which is based on the value of vehicles.

The drivers of passenger cars weighing up to 5,000 pounds would be charged $23 a year, while the drivers of vehicles weighing between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds ” which would include many sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks ” would pay $28 a year. Trucks would pay $37 or $39 depending on their weight. Drivers of motorcycles and scooters would also have to chip in $16.

Rice estimates that the resulting road work would create 5,000 jobs.

Republicans and Democrats have been trying to come up with a plan to pay for bridge and highway repairs since talks broke down at the end of last session. Some in the GOP, including Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, want the state to leverage its assets first to raise money.

Under that plan, investors would give the state money for its buildings and the state would pay rent to use them. Ritter has likened that approach, which has been used to pay for other state construction projects, to subprime borrowing, but Rice said he is open to using it.

Penry wouldn’t say whether he would support the proposed fees. However, he said he would continue talking to Democrats and “drive a hard bargain” to include Republican ideas in the bill. He was hopeful that both parties could come up with something they could agree on this year.

“If we can’t fix 126 bridges, what in the world are we doing here?” said Penry, who is from Fruita.

Rice said he and Gibbs probably won’t introduce the bill for several weeks and were open to adding ideas from other lawmakers. For example, Gibbs said he was talking with agricultural groups about the proposal because farm vehicles are currently exempted from registration fees.

Rice said Colorado could get up to $500 million in one-time transportation funding from the federal stimulus plan being negotiated in Washington. But he said the state would still need new, ongoing revenue to pay for roads because the state’s 22-cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn’t kept up with construction costs. That revenue has slowed as vehicle fuel efficiency has increased.

“It would be very helpful. We hope we get it, but we have to solve our own problems,” Rice said.

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