Road, bridge crisis in Colorado? | AspenTimes.com

Road, bridge crisis in Colorado?

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Lawmakers warned Wednesday that the state has a hidden transportation crisis that must be addressed to prevent a disaster like the Minneapolis bridge collapse last year that killed 13 people.

Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said transportation programs won’t get the funding they need unless taxpayers are convinced there is a problem. She said many of those problems aren’t visible to the public.

“You can’t see the crumbling bridges and the wear and tear on them. Things are still falling down. You might not see them falling down,” she told members of the governor’s blue ribbon transportation panel, which turned in its final report on Wednesday.

The panel said 17 percent of Colorado bridges have significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards, including 7 percent that were structurally deficient in 2006 and 10 percent that were functionally obsolete. The panel also found that 8 percent of the state’s major roads are in poor condition.

The panel said the first priority should be maintaining existing roads and bridges as part of a “Fix it First” commitment at a cost of $500 million a year.

Gov. Bill Ritter told lawmakers transportation is one of three big-ticket items he wants to address and suggested the best way to fund “Fix it First” is to raise auto registration fees, which would not require voter approval under the state’s tax- and spending-limitation constitutional amendment.

Ritter said he wants a commitment from lawmakers to back that plan.

Other recommendations from the panel include improving safety and reducing congestion with large-corridor construction projects; providing more transit to increase access to jobs, health care and recreation; adding pedestrian and bike paths; and providing more money to local governments for roads and transit, which could cost $1.5 billion a year.

Other suggested sources of revenue include a 13-cent increase in the motor fuel tax, which would raise $351 million a year and require voter approval; a $6-a-day visitor fee for renting a car or staying in a hotel or motel, which does not require voter approval; an increase in the sales and use taxes on all retail sales to raise $312 million a year, which would require voter approval; and an increase in the severance tax on minerals by 1.7 percent to raise $96 million, which also would require voter approval.

Ritter told lawmakers there is not enough time before the November election to make a case to voters to raise taxes, but something needs to be done now.

“We do need to do something, and that something we can do now is vehicle registration,” Ritter said.


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