CDOT faces budget woes, trouble could trickle down to Summit County
Summit Daily News
The trickle-down effects of steep cuts to transportation funding proposed at the national level could be felt locally, as CDOT struggles to keep up with expenses and faces the possibility of further funding cuts from the federal government.
“The issue is that transportation needs are great,” CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said. “And right now, CDOT has to focus on taking care of the existing system. We can’t let it fall apart. Transportation dollars are so scarce that there isn’t anything left for capacity improvements.”
Right now, nearly $400 million of CDOT’s already-limited budget hinges on a federal transportation-funding bill set to expire Sept. 30. If Congress does not extend the bill, new legislation could further cut CDOT’s budget.
U.S. House of Representatives is proposing a budget that would cut billions from transportation and would mean a $70 million loss for CDOT directly for the next six years. The Senate is pushing a budget that would keep transportation funding at current levels for two years.
Colorado currently receives approximately $390 million in federal funding for transportation. That would drop to $320 million if the House proposal were approved, taking a significant chunk out of the transportation department’s $1 billion annual budget.
It’s a financial hit that would likely be felt locally, not only in a lapse in new projects, but in trickle-down effects to Summit County agencies.
The Summit Stage came up short by about $500,000 in its preliminary 2012 budget, due largely to a $450,000 cut in funding from CDOT anticipated next year, according to transit director John Jones.
“We were told to expect a 20 percent cut in our operational grid funding,” he said. “Without that cut, it (would be) a lot easier for us to work through what we may have to do to make that budget balance.”
The Stage has already reduced service and driver hours to save money. It would be difficult to implement additional funding cuts without riders feeling the affects, according to Jones.
“Obviously we’re going to have to take a hard look at everything we do and make wise choices as far as how do we reduce expenses,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is further affect our riders. (The question is) how can we reduce our expenses without reducing what is on the road? I don’t know that we’ll get that done, but we’re sure going to try very, very hard.”
CDOT funding cuts would also mean road improvement or “capacity enhancement” projects would have to be put on hold, Stegman said, or funded through tolls or public private partnerships.
“If new capacity is going to happen right now, that appears to be the only way to fund it,” she said. “There isn’t anything left for major capacity improvements and that’s why (we’re) seeing discussion occur on tolling or public private partnerships to be able to build these projects.”
CDOT recently announced an unsolicited offer from a private firm to implement unspecified improvements on the Interstate 70 corridor.
Though details of the proposed project have not been released, CDOT officials confirmed they are in line with projects imagined in a recent long-term analysis of possible solutions for the corridor. Speculation is that the project would involve some sort of tolling mechanism.
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