Fixing Breckenridge traffic congestion will take long-term funding (column)
Special to the Daily
It’s no secret that traffic congestion and parking have been top issues in our community for some time. The Breckenridge Town Council believes we’ve finally hit the tipping point and unanimously agrees that now is the time to work towards solving this issue.
We have an active, educated and informed citizenry. We know that significant projects succeed with a transparent, engaging public process. Earlier this week, the town hosted two well-attended community forums. The purpose was two-fold: to share information and to listen.
We shared ideas on a variety of topics: the design of the proposed parking structure on F-Lot; transit enhancements you value; and ensuring we have adequate dedicated employee parking.
Questions were raised about how this can all be paid for. The short answer: the town does not have the means to pay for these improvements out of existing revenue streams or reserves. Nor will a one-time contribution solve this on-going issue. What is critical is a sustainable, ongoing source of revenue.
At this stage, there are only estimates for these long-term solutions. The cost of constructing the F-Lot parking structure as well as improvements to Highway 9/Park Avenue is estimated at $50 million. Improvements to transit, including more frequent service and new routes to visitor and employee bases, is estimated to increase by $1 million to $3+ million, annually. Adding on the purchase of additional buses and the estimate for transit upgrades is in the $3-million to $6-million range, annually.
The town’s operation of police, public works, recreation (including the recreation center, ice rink, golf course and Nordic center), cultural arts (including the Riverwalk Center, Arts District and historical assets), marketing efforts, and ongoing capital investments uses 100 percent of current revenue streams. Projected parking fees from a new structure will only cover its annual operating costs; it’s not nearly enough for increased transit.
Several of you asked if the town has reserve funds. The fact is, the town has about $13 million of undesignated money for one-time capital projects. However, the ‘wish list” from the community includes expanding the Riverwalk Center to add indoor restrooms, adding a roof over the outdoor ice rink, improving the recreation center — just to name a few. Paying for these will exceed $13 million. Other “monies in the bank” are restricted for the new water plant, open space, golf-course maintenance and affordable housing. The bottom line: We simply do not have reserve funds or revenue streams to support parking and transit solutions on top of existing obligations.
A for-profit admission tax is under consideration. Vail, Mt. Crested Butte, and Snowmass use it to fund transit and parking. Utah and Washington use sales or admissions tax on lift tickets to pay for infrastructure maintenance.
Council members have been talking with ski area officials over the past few years. Discussions will continue until the end of July, at which time the council needs to make a decision on placing an admissions tax question on the November ballot.
Our responsibility is to ensure our world-class town does the best job it can to move people — guests, employees, business owners and residents, alike — around as efficiently and safely as possible. A long-term sustainable funding source is vital to meet our parking and traffic challenges. All other options — including a one-time contribution — simply will not be adequate to solve these problems. Acting as good stewards of the town’s financial future means solving our congestion and parking problems with sufficient, sustainable, ongoing revenue.
Tim Gagen is the Town Manager for the Town of Breckenridge
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