A fix for transportation built on strong leadership — and bonding

Author: Sandra Hagen Solin - May 2, 2018 - Updated: May 2, 2018

Sandra Hagen Solin

At the beginning of this legislative session, an urgent plea for action was delivered by business leaders throughout the state to legislative leaders and the governor to address the growing crisis in our state’s transportation system.

With just over a week remaining in the 2018 session, we are increasingly concerned that transportation could once again fall victim to inaction.

Inaction on our transportation system threatens the vibrancy of our economy and our quality of life. The cost of projects will continue to rise, travel times will increase, and tourist and recreation destinations become less attractive. Doing nothing means the ability to engage in commerce becomes more challenging and economic opportunities will be lost as businesses choose to relocate to other states that invest in their infrastructure.

In March, state economists projected nearly $1.3 billion in new revenue; 75 percent or more of this mostly unencumbered revenue reflects our growing economy. This new revenue builds our base revenue — meaning, next year and the year after that and the year after that, those dollars will still be there.

Now is the time to invest in the future — to grab hold of those unencumbered dollars to address the very growth that produced them.

The good news is that an investment in transportation doesn’t need to come at the expense of any or every other state priority. For the first time in a long time, there is enough to go around!

Economies, by their nature, are cyclical. However, the longevity of a healthy economy correlates in part with a positive outlook and a reinvestment in infrastructure. Not investing for fear of an impending recession only serves to fulfill the prophecy.

Today, we urge our leaders to finish the 2018 legislative session with a legislative proposal that brings to Coloradans a significant transportation funding and finance package. The major provisions of Senate Bill 18-001 accomplish this objective.

With a unanimous vote out of the Senate, the measure now captures $500 million of the $1.3 billion in new, unencumbered projected revenue to the state transportation system, providing an important jump-start to addressing the $9 billion in state transportation needs. And SB1 dedicates $250 million annually to CDOT over a 20-year period to fund the repayment of the $3.5 billion TRANS bond finance program.

With Colorado so far behind, it is imperative that we spur construction throughout the state as quickly as possible. Bonding, an integral part of the transportation solution equation, is the proven route to leverage any new and existing funds to accelerate the completion of transportation projects throughout the state.

Bonding delivers an infusion of funds to concurrently build critical projects throughout the state. A “pay as you go” system fails in this regard. Additionally, only through bonding can you fund and build large-scale, economically significant projects such as the I-25 expansion efforts in both northern and southern Colorado and improvements along the I-70 mountain corridor.

Finally, bonding available funds is the least expensive way to fund construction. With construction inflation continuing to outpace state-exempt interest rates, the longer we continue to “pay as we go” rather than bond, the more these projects are going to cost. Bonding provides Colorado the way forward to take advantage of current low interest rates and stay ahead of construction inflation.

Working together, we can enact a balanced solution where we address the volatility of transportation funding and jump-start critical transportation projects. A solution where we dedicate and leverage dollars from the state’s General Fund into our roads and bridges. A solution that places a priority not only on addressing delayed and deferred repairs but also on expanding capacity.

The consensus by business leaders and our legislative leaders surrounding our desperate transportation needs tells us that we can achieve a landmark agreement this session. But, the clock is ticking.

Let’s fix this. Let’s work together to make 2018 the year we stopped talking about our transportation funding challenge and instead achieved a solution worthy of the people of Colorado.

Sandra Hagen Solin

Sandra Hagen Solin

Sandra Hagen Solin, senior director of government relations for Kutak Rock, is the spokesperson for Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance and Fix Colorado Roads, a coalition of chambers and economic development organizations across Colorado.