Discussing the need for improved funding solutions to ensure investment in infrastructure when and where it is needed
By Gov. John Hickenlooper
Colorado’s history is not just about rugged individualism and conflict. Cooperation has always been a defining part of our DNA. We have come to learn, and expect, our leaders to collaboratively make the investments that benefit the prosperity of all Coloradans.
Because of these traits, we have built one of the best economies in the country. We are among the top states for business, careers, and innovation. We are a destination for outdoor recreation, as well as countless musical and cultural activities.
Along with our success, we have faced new challenges and obstacles that we must overcome to be competitive in this rapidly changing economy. Chief among these challenges is our aging infrastructure. The gas tax has remained unchanged since 1992, and with more fuel-efficient cars on the road and normal inflation, we have a transportation funding problem. Over the next decade, Colorado will have nine billion dollars of unmet transportation needs, and this number will only continue to grow with inflation and population growth. We need to be more ambitious. We must look at a long-term solution with a sustainable funding source. On this, there is broad agreement — across party lines.
We cannot achieve success without partnership and chief among those we need at the table is the federal government. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act’s authorization of $305 billion for federal surface transportation programs from 2016 to 2020 provides only a short-term source of transportation funding. Without a continuing funding source, the instability of the Highway Trust Fund continues to be ominous. Since 2008, the Highway Trust Fund has been sustained through a series of General Fund transfers, now amounting to $140 billion, and is in dire need of established, reliable funding. Colorado will continue to lead the call for Congress to find a solution and to bolster innovative programs like a National pilot project exploring the Road Usage Charge (sometimes called Mileage-Based User Fee or Vehicle Miles Traveled Fee) as a potential long-term, sustainable transportation-funding alternative.
Coloradans will continue to do what we know what works: doing more with less. Colorado is a state that stretches every dollar and squeezes every penny. Yet here, just like other states around the country, we see incredible leaps in economic progress when we invest in our infrastructure, like when businessmen raised funds to ensure the railroad came to Colorado in 1889, or when we created one of the country’s first gas taxes in the early 1900s. In 1995, we opened the world-class Denver International Airport. A decade later we launched FasTracks, the country’s largest transit and rail investment at the time. Each reshaped our transportation landscape and changed how we chose to travel.
We are one of the nation’s leaders in public-private partnerships, which leverage private sector innovations and investments to bring much-needed projects to the public. Bold thinking like this helps us keep up with our growing state and enhance our economic vitality.
Furthermore, we are looking at how data and technology can further innovation in mobility, infrastructure, and safety. We have innovated through signature project designs and construction, like the Eisenhower Johnson Tunnel through the Rocky Mountains. With the development of Glenwood Canyon in the 1980s, we set the national model for environmentally-sensitive design and construction. Our current Central 70 project has created an unprecedented local workforce development program. Our RoadX Program launched the world’s first autonomous beer truck delivery, first autonomous impact protection vehicle and first commercial-grade connected transportation system.
The Colorado way is an ongoing blueprint for how the nation can tackle our transportation challenges. Only together can we solve the big problems of today and the future.
John Hickenlooper has served as the 42nd Governor of Colorado since his inauguration in 2011. More information on his tenure can be found at www.colorado.gov/governor