MIKE JOHNSTON: We must ask voters for a stable funding source
Author: Mike Johnston - June 7, 2018 - Updated: June 7, 2018
The American spirit of adventure and the pursuit of opportunity has drawn families to Colorado for decades. The explosive growth that has brought Colorado’s population from 4.3 million in 2000 to nearly 5.7 million today – and even more in the future – demands preparation. While a strong economy has been an overall boon for our state, our investments in infrastructure and transportation have not kept up.
The costs of failing to address this backlog are higher than you might expect. A study from the Leeds School of Business shows that if our crumbling roads and lackluster public transportation persist, Colorado’s economic growth will dramatically slow, and as early as 2019 — not because we don’t have great business here, but because we’ll have two critical shortages: a lack of talent to fill the jobs that are open, and a lack of adequate infrastructure to allow us to move people and goods around the state. This means our failure to solve the transportation problem is actually one of the greatest economic risks the state faces.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) projects that we need $20 billion over the next 20 years to address our infrastructure needs. As the former chair of the state Senate Finance Committee, I know we’re not going to find that money hidden in the couch cushions of the state budget. Instead, we must think big and act boldly so that Colorado is prepared to embrace the future. As governor, I have a plan to support our infrastructure so that getting around Colorado is easy, affordable and safe.
This is why I think we will have to go to the ballot and ask the voters to approve a long-term stable funding source for infrastructure. I am encouraged by the Chamber of Commerce’s leadership in making that happen. But in addition to where we find the revenue, the question is what we do with it.
We know there are critical parts of the state’s infrastructure that are clogged, like sections of I-25 and I-70 that need widening and improvements. We also know that we can’t simply solve this problem by paving our way out of it. You can’t just add one lane every five years and assume that the problem will go away.
We have to think differently about moving people and products around the state, and that means pursuing big ideas like Front Range rail. It also means thinking more creatively and using technology to improve traffic flow. That’s why I’ve been working with technologists to look at ways that we can create linked travel, where you could have an HOV lane in which people use a common application to guide their movement. Estimates from Panasonic are that these systems could make traffic flow 100-400% more efficient, which is more than paving 1-3 new lanes.
It’s also critical that we not only focus these improvements in the congested parts of the Front Range but in all parts of the state. Again, we know this is not just a matter of convenience, it’s a matter of safety. That means we have to work to support local roads that need rumble strips as well as repaving and guard rails so we don’t continue to lose people to auto-related deaths in all parts of the state.
Colorado draws strength from its diverse and distinct regions, but we can only realize the benefits of that strength when we are connected. We must work together to prepare for the future and keep Colorado a state of opportunity for generations to come.