webcolor-vic4gov-©-andrew-clark-2017-e1528241173423.jpg

Victor MitchellVictor MitchellJune 7, 20185min630

Colorado literally stands at a crossroads this year when it comes to transportation funding. I wish it was just a pun. Unfortunately, it’s the truth. As the November election approaches, special interests and Capitol insiders are demanding new revenue for transportation, by whatever means. The downtown Denver crowd is asking for a statewide sales tax increase for more transit, trails, and other goodies. A second, separate group opposes the sales tax, but wants to obligate Colorado to $5.2 billion dollars in additional debt and interest for selected road projects chosen by the big road builders and CDOT bureaucrats. I oppose both initiatives. My opponents embrace one or the other. We can and must address our road and bridge challenges without new taxes or debt.


Screen-Shot-2017-09-03-at-7.25.37-PM-1024x799.jpg

Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 4, 20176min779

A state commission has begun exploring ways to realize Colorado transportation officials’ vision of passenger rail service that stretches up and down the Front Range.

The commission, which includes government representatives from Denver to Trinidad, has until Dec. 1 to submit to the legislature a plan detailing steps forward and funding options. The ultimate hope is a commuter rail that runs from Fort Collins to Pueblo, which probably would cost between $5 billion and $15 billion, said David Krutsinger, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s transit and rail program.

The group is also has a more immediate objective: rerouting Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line, which runs through the southeastern corner of the state, to include stops in Pueblo and Walsenburg. Officials say the route could be done in less than five years.

As politicians scrounge for funds to repair Colorado’s ailing highways and leaders in the Pikes Peak region search for the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to widen Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, members of the commission see an opportunity to press a transportation solution that can sustain Colorado’s exploding population.

“The single-occupancy vehicle is just not going to be the best solution for the future of transportation in Colorado,” said commission member Jill Gaebler, who also is president pro tem of the Colorado Springs City Council. “We need to be thinking bigger and more long term.”

The commission will meet for the second time this week, and its 13 members plan to convene at least once a month, she said.

The commission, renamed and repurposed with a measure that was signed into a law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May, was created in 2014 to devise a plan to rehabilitate more than 100 miles of track on Amtrak’s Chicago-to-Los Angeles line, which has stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad, and consider options for the Chief’s expansion.

Senate Bill 153 tasked commissioners are now being asked to come up with sources for the millions of dollars needed to rehabilitate about 50 miles of remaining dilapidated track. Once fully completed, the improvements are expected to save trains up to two hours on each trip, with the two proposed stops tacking on an hour or less in travel time and the Pueblo station adding an estimated 14,000 more trips each year, according to CDOT.

The commission is unsure exactly how much the extension would cost, although Pueblo voters have already elected to set aside some money for it, said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, the group’s interim chairman.

County voters approved in November a ballot question that would allow the county to spend excess revenues that would otherwise be returned to taxpayers under the provisions of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, to fund a list of projects including the reroute. However, the amount of money each project will be allocated has yet to be finalized, Pace said.

The cost of extending the line will be relatively low, Pace said, because existing freight railways would be used, but there are still some remaining engineering challenges, including logistical negotiations with railroad lines and considerations related to platform construction and tracking of the trains.

“We see the Chief (reroute) as an incremental step,” he said. “The big prize is connecting the Front Range of Colorado via passenger rail.”

The price tag of a 180-mile commuter rail would vary, with a less-expensive line traveling at lower speeds on the existing freight train corridor, and a pricier line traveling up to 180 mph just east of I-25, Krutsinger said. But the state doesn’t currently have the money for either option. Paying for the massive undertaking probably would require voters to approve new taxes or an increase in the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since the early 1990s, he said.

Plus, there are political hurdles to creating a railway that crosses jurisdictional lines – such as where the stops should be located and how already-crowded city centers would make room for them. But Krutsinger said a commuter rail is essential if Colorado wants to keep up with other growing population centers in North America, such as Boston and Salt Lake City. The Front Range’s population, now more than 4 million, is expected to increase to upward of 6 million by 2040, he said.

“You look at cities with 6 million people, and they almost without exception have rail networks for their population. If we’re going to stay competitive, Colorado is going to need to do it.”


NASA-Solar-Eclipse.jpg

Ernest LuningErnest LuningAugust 21, 20178min580

Picture six Broncos games getting out at the same time on the same stretch of road. That's what traffic generated by Monday's total eclipse of the sun — a once-in-a-century event in these parts — could amount to, the Colorado Department of Transportation is warning state motorists. And for those stuck in traffic between Friday and Monday, AAA Colorado has some tips and a musical playlist guaranteed to brighten even the darkest day.


unnamed-1.jpg

Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 17, 20174min476

CoPirg is celebrating the Bustang’s second year, as the horse-named Greyhound is picking up the pace as it connects Denver to Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and some of the mountain towns.

The left-leaning research nonprofit based in Denver released ridership numbers this week that show the Bustang’s use jumped 52 percent to 155,864 trips.

CoPIRG Foundation staff greeted riders and the public Tuesday at Bustang’s gate in Denver’s Union Station, collecting signatures on a giant birthday card.

The CoPIRG Foundation plans to deliver card to the Colorado Department of Transportation along with a letter signed by 41 Colorado mayors, city council members and county commissioners in support of expanding the regional bus service.

“Bustang has provided thousands of people with the freedom to travel to Denver from Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and mountain towns along I-70 and vice versa without driving their car,” Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation’s director, tells Colorado Politics in an e-mail. “The huge growth in ridership demonstrates the clear need for even more statewide bus service like Bustang.”

Bustang ridership
(Provided by CoPirg)

The Denver Post reported this week that the service cost had a $10 million startup cost and takes about $3 million a year to operate. Last year it brought in about $1.5 million.

CDOT has a fleet of 13 black-and-purple coaches that each seat 51 riders. Each has wifi and room to store bicycles, along with restrooms so you can go while you’re going.

A ride from Denver to Fort Collins cost $10, to Colorado Springs it’s $12 and at the westernmost destination, Glenwood Springs, it’s $28 with cheaper stops in between at Idaho Springs ($5), Frisco ($12), Vail ($17) and Eagle ($22).

The Bustang also charters for events such as Broncos games, skiers and the RamsRoute, which ferries Colorado State students from Fort Collins to Denver on Friday nights and back on Sunday nights during the school year.

“Whether you don’t own a car or want to avoid the hassle of driving and paying for parking, Bustang is connecting our biggest cities and economic areas via wifi-equipped buses. It’s crazy it took until 2015 to have a statewide public bus service, but now that Coloradans have the option to ride a bus, people are using it. We should keep expanding the service until everyone in Colorado has transportation options,” said Katz.



Jared WrightJared WrightJune 16, 20176min363

A major step forward for transportation occurred earlier this year with the approval of the Central 70 project by the federal government. This project involves the reconstruction of a 10-mile stretch between I-25 and Chambers Road and the replacement of a 50-year-old viaduct on Interstate 70. With the approval, the Colorado Department of Transportation could begin work in early 2018.


strickland-1-1024x687.jpg

Rachael WrightRachael WrightJune 1, 20178min376

Thirty Years Ago this Week in the Colorado Statesman … State Rep. Faye Fleming, D-Th0rnton, switched her party affiliation from Democratic to Republican Feb. 14, 1987, only six weeks after she took office. One of her campaign contributors, United Steel Workers Local 8031, threatened to sue her for misrepresentation. The influential union also took to the streets contacting her constituents. A signature drive operation for Fleming’s recall had already been on the ground since March.



Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 2, 20174min371

Colorado commuters, don’t get mad if other major highways are getting work and yours on, say, Interstate 25, remains a parking during morning rush hour. A cyclone of factors involving timing, money and politics in Denver and Washington go into such projects.

My buddy Mark Matthews at The Denver Post had a good story Monday afternoon about $109 million in federal loans that will help pay for a $276 million project to add toll lanes to 12.5-mile of C-470 between I-25 and South Wadsworth Boulevard.

Colorado legislators are looking for about $300 million a year to repay $3.5 billion in proposed loans to jump-start the Colorado Department of Transportation’s list of highest priorities, including I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock and between Denver and Fort Collins, as well as the I-70 mountain corridor.

Work should be done by the in two years. That’s great news if you need to get from Park Meadows Mall to Bear Valley, but not so much in getting from Centennial to downtown Denver or Colorado Springs.

But it’s like traveling down a road: You have to get rolling, and Colorado lawmakers are at a standstill.

Legislators are still working on a bill to put money into transportation, with dimming hopes and little more than a week left in the legislative session. The C-470 project has been in the works for years.

“The C-470 Express Lanes is the culmination of a longer-term planning process started in the late 2000s and was completed a year or so ago along with the identifying funding to move forward with construction,” CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford told me.

“The process to begin planning for I-25 between C470 and Colorado Springs began this year and is being expedited such that we could start construction on the gap between Monument and Castle Rock should funds be identified in 2019. This follows previous planning, funding and construction on I-25 in the last decade in Colorado Springs and in Pueblo, building COSMIX (Colorado Springs Metro Interstate Expansion), widening 25 north to Woodmen, the Cimarron and Fillmore interchanges and the new Pueblo freeway.”

Toll lanes on I-25, however, have proven fraught with political problems from truckers and some Democratic lawmakers, who see them as double taxation that could sink a broader transportation fix.

CDOT has said it won’t use any new tax money on toll lanes, but fares paid by those who want the luxury help relieve traffic congestion and pay for projects used by those riding toll-free, such as the Boulder Turnpike alongside U.S. 36 northwest of Denver.

“Most taxpayers, when they hear about managed lanes, toll lanes, whatever, they get very agitated,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters. “But they don’t have to take managed lanes … and the people who do are lowering the taxes on everyone else.”