February 10, 2017
We are writing on behalf on the Northwest Chamber Alliance to ask the state legislature and the governor to refer a transportation funding measure to the voters of Colorado. As representatives of businesses in Broomfield and Boulder Counties we see every day how our transportation network has failed to keep up with the state’s growth. This translates into real harm to the economy and to quality of life.
When we can’t afford to maintain our roads and bridges, it makes our roads less safe, and can add hundreds of dollars a year to the cost of maintaining a car. When traffic jams and a lack of public transit options make it hard for people to get to work, it harms quality of life for employees and makes it harder for companies to find qualified workers. When we don’t have safe places for people to walk and bike, people are forced into their cars for short trips, further clogging our roads. This area is a great place to live and to work, but scrimping on transportation infrastructure threatens its future vitality.
A major part of the problem is the fact that the biggest source of funding, the state gas tax, was last raised in 1992. The last time Colorado raised the gas tax, Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show and cellphones were as big as bricks. But while the gas tax remained fixed, the cost of everything else went up. Twenty-five years of inflation have reduced the purchasing power of a dollar of state gas tax by more than 60%. Adjusting for inflation, the Colorado Department of Transportation now has revenues that are lower than they were in 1991- despite the fact that the state has millions more people to serve.
That is why we are so pleased to see a bipartisan effort to increase transportation funding in Colorado. We know that raising taxes is politically challenging, but the voters of Colorado want our elected officials to make progress on transportation. And as our elected officials work to craft a ballot issue, we urge them to keep the following principles in mind.
First, it is important that any funding measure reflect the fact that our transportation needs are diverse. We need significant funding for state highways, local roads, public transit, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. In this part of the state, in particular, we need substantial investments in improved regional public transportation, not just money to expand roads. While the types of transit needs vary, polling shows that voters across the state are far more likely to vote for a measure that funds public transit and bicycle and pedestrian improvements in addition to roads.
Second, it is important to clearly articulate what these funds will be used for. Voters should know what they are getting, while also leaving enough flexibility to respond to changing needs. There is a technological revolution going on, with self driving cars set to transform the way we get around within the next decade. No one really understands how this will affect our infrastructure. So, while we make the improvements we need today, we should maintain some flexibility in the out years.
Third, it is important to assure that a portion of the funds go to local governments. Many of our transportation challenges happen on local streets – whether fixing potholes or making it safer for kids to cross the street – and local governments have the best understanding of these needs.
We look forward to action by the legislature and the governor on Colorado’s critical transportation needs.
John L. Tayer, President/CEO Boulder Chamber
Jennifer Kerr, President & CEO Broomfield Chamber
Bruce R. Partain, CEO, Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce
About the Northwest Chamber Alliance
The Northwest Chamber Alliance was formed in 2016 as a coalition focused on regional issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life. It is currently comprised of the Boulder, Broomfield and Longmont Chambers, representing approximately 2,400 businesses made up of 100,000 employees. These businesses range from large international corporations to small businesses, startups, nonprofits and public institutions.