Summit County officials push for more transportation funding from state legislators

The Summit Stage added its first three electric buses to its fleet Oct. 19. Summit County has committed to go 100% electric by 2050.
Photo by Sawyer D’Argonne /

In an effort to improve local transportation, Summit County commissioners are pushing state legislators to consider passing a bill that would boost transit funding.

In a Feb. 3 letter sent to Deven Shaff, chairman of the Counties and Commissioners Acting Together transportation board, the three Summit County commissioners argued for legislation that would help support the Summit Stage and other public transportation locally.

Counties and Commissioners Acting Together is a coalition of commissioners that lobbies state representatives on issues important to the local officials.

Commissioner Tamara Pogue, who led the effort on drafting the letter, said the goal was to push for funding for three aspects of transit: standard road repair, electric vehicle infrastructure and multimodal transportation.

The most pressing issue for Pogue is multimodal transportation, which she described as infrastructure for public transportation like the Summit Stage.

Pogue said the commissioners ultimately would like to see about 30% of a potential funding package dedicated to multimodal infrastructure, which she said would help support the local workforce in its transportation needs.

“While mass transit typically enjoys strong support, the financial demand for the infrastructure associated with the operations of these systems is staggering, regardless of the size and location of the system,” the commissioners wrote in the letter.

While some may view the need for better public transportation as a local issue that local officials should solve, Pogue said it’s really something that concerns the whole state. According to the letter, Summit County’s transit system accommodates nearly 2 million riders a year despite a population of about 30,000 people.

“It’s not just our local workforce that benefits,” she said. “Obviously, we have tourists that come to Summit County that want to access these systems. And, ultimately, for the state really to have an impact on climate change, we have to recognize that all of these strategies work together.”

Pushing for better funding to support electric vehicles was another major part of the commissioners’ letter. In the letter, the commissioners wrote that “any new funding package should have a focus on reducing emissions and vehicle miles traveled.”

“We know that as folks go to replace their cars, they’re going to buy electric vehicles with increasing frequency,” Pogue said. “From a climate change perspective, both the county and the state want to provide incentives for consumers to do that, but we also need to have an infrastructure to support that.”

Pogue said infrastructure to support electric cars would mean more charging stations throughout the state and ensuring the electric grid has enough power to support those cars.

No draft bill around transportation has been released; though, legislators have discussed a proposal to implement a gas tax that would add a fee to the purchase of a gallon of gas, according to reporting by The Colorado Sun. The fee would be added on top of the state’s current gas tax of 22 cents per gallon, which has remained flat since 1992.

Whether its a gas tax or some other funding measure, Pogue said it’s ultimately up to the state representatives to decide. However, she said she would be wary of a gas tax because it wouldn’t be sustainable if more people move to electric vehicles.

“We need to consider that the vehicles folks drive are going to change, so a gas tax is really only relevant if you are someone that drives a vehicle powered by gas,” she said.

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