Panel outlines plan to fix roads, bridges
February 12, 2008
DENVER – A panel appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to find funding for the state’s crumbling bridges and roads told lawmakers Tuesday that they need to find at least $500 million a year just to keep the highway system running.Doug Aden, chairman of the Colorado Transportation Commission, warned legislators that the state’s highways are in trouble.”We’ve looked at our surface treatment where we’re not meeting our goals, we’ve looked at the increasing backlog of bridges that need to be repaired, we’re not meeting our goals for maintenance levels of service, we’re running our equipment to 150 percent of its useful life. You can go on down the list of challenges the Colorado Department of Transportation is facing,” he told legislators.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 maintaining existing roads and bridges should be the first priority as part of a “Fix it First” commitment at a cost of $500 million a year.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.Gov. Bill Ritter has said a $100 vehicle registration fee is the quickest and easiest way to raise the $500 million needed for the “Fix it First” program.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.Lawmakers and Ritter have said voters have shown little interest in a tax increase this year.