Presentation on Transportation Issues
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
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11:13 AM -- Presentation from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel on Transportation Issues
Russell George, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), began by providing information on the state's transportation infrastructure and CDOT's functions. A copy of the department's presentation and its Transportation Deficit Report mandated by Senate Bill 09-108 (FASTER) are provided as Attachments C and D, respectively.
Heather Copp, Chief Financial Officer for CDOT, discussed the revenue sources for the state's transportation infrastructure, noting that most of the revenue comes from fuel excise taxes. The federal and state fuel excise tax rates have not changed for close to 20 years. She also discussed the FASTER bill and the transportation funding changes resulting from Senate Bill 09-228.
Ms. Copp continued by discussing federal funding for transportation, the reauthorization of the federal transportation funding law, and the insolvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund. She indicated that revenue from the state gas tax has stayed relatively flat or has experienced some slight declines in recent years. She also stated that construction cost inflation has significantly eroded the value of the gas tax over time.
Ms. Copp continued by providing information on the registration fee increases resulting from the FASTER bill and how SB 09-228 impacts the funding from the General Fund for CDOT.
Doug Aden, a member of the state Transportation Commission and co-chair of the state Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel, discussed the panel's efforts to identify funding options for the state's transportation system. The panel recommended an increase of $1.5 billion in annual funding for transportation to provide the type of system necessary to support a growing and vibrant economy and a high quality of life for Coloradans. He commented on the large gap in revenue that is currently available for transportation compared to what is needed. He indicated that keeping the status quo in funding will result in increased congestion and further deterioration of the state's roads and bridges.
Mr. Aden continued by discussing the panel's recommendations for dealing with the state's transportation funding and infrastructure problems, such as policies to improve mobility, increasing funding for local governments, and increasing mass transit and tolling options. He also provided information on the condition of the state's transportation system. For example, 47 percent of the state's roads are rated in poor condition.
The commission discussed the condition of the state's transportation system and funding issues. Mr. Aden and Mr. George discussed the transportation infrastructure problems faced throughout the United States. Mr. Aden indicated that Utah has made progress in developing ways to meet long-term transportation needs, such as developing successful long-range plans and raising the sales tax for transportation improvements. Ms. Copp discussed issues surrounding tolling, including the potential increased usage of tolls to support the transportation system. She commented that tolling for certain road segments has been successful, such as on E-470 and I-25 north of downtown, but that it would not be viable everywhere.
The commission discussed the potential impact on General Fund money for roads due to the repeal of House Bill 02-1310 and Senate Bill 97-1 as a result of the passage of SB 09-228. Mr. George discussed the need for the state to find a sustainable, consistent revenue source to fund transportation infrastructure. He stated that the state needs to decide what it wants its future transportation infrastructure to look like; what it will cost; how much the state can afford; and then find the best funding mechanism. In response to commission questions, Mr. George commented on CDOT's efforts to make its operations more cost effective.
The commission talked about the best ways to fund the state's transportation needs, such as whether transportation should receive General Fund dollars. Mr. George discussed the state's ways of funding transportation in the past, including the user fee concept of the fuel excise tax and the use of a portion of sales tax from vehicle-related purchases. He reiterated the need to have a predictable and sustainable revenue source. Mr. Aden mentioned the state's obligation to pay the debt service for "TRANS" and how SB 97-1 money was one funding source to pay for the state's "7th pot projects."
Senator Heath recessed the commission for lunch. He stated that he will not be present for the rest of the afternoon and for the next day's commission meeting due to medical issues.