Opinion

The eco-friendly case for a statewide transportation tax hike

Author: Jim Alexee - October 19, 2018 - Updated: October 18, 2018

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Jim Alexee

Why is the state’s largest grassroots environmental advocacy group urging you to vote yes on Proposition 110?

The Sierra Club, Colorado’s largest grassroots group committed to protecting our air, water, land and people, has voted to endorse Proposition 110. Why are we weighing in on transportation? Well, the cars and trucks we drive (and getting the oil and gas that power them) is the largest source of air pollution in the metro area, and one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In order to reduce pollution, we need to switch to cleaner cars and electric vehicles – but we also need better transportation infrastructure that gives us more options in how we travel, and lets us spend less time stuck in traffic. That’s where Proposition 110 comes in.

Historically, the biggest source of transportation funding in Colorado was the state gas tax. The last time that Colorado raised the gas tax was in 1991, when a gallon of regular gasoline cost just over a buck. Since then, the gas tax rate has stayed flat at 22 cents per gallon, while the price of gas has more than doubled, and inflation has cut the buying power of a dollar in half. The economic squeeze play over the past 25 years has left Colorado without enough money to maintain roads and bridges, invest in public transit, or create walk-able, bike-able communities. We all see the results — potholes, traffic jams, missing links in sidewalks, and a public transit system that just can’t keep up with our growing population.

Voters have a chance to fix these problems this fall by voting yes on 110. Prop 110 asks voters to approve a small sales tax increase (about six cents on a ten dollar purchase) in order to raise about $750 million a year for transportation.

Forty percent of the funding will go to cities and counties. This makes sense, since local roads account for most lane miles, and every trip starts and ends on a local road. Denver would receive a total of about $800 million over 20 years. From potholes to bus service to bike lanes, this infusion of money will put us on a quicker path to people-friendly streets.

Fifteen percent will go into a new multimodal fund that can only be used for transit, walking, and biking. This money will benefit the metro area by helping build rapid transit on East Colfax and transit improvements along Highway 285,. The funding will also nearly double statewide transit operations via the Bustang service that provides options for transportation to Denver from metro communities across Colorado.

The remaining 45 percent will go to priority projects across the state. This will fund some big road projects, notably on I-25 north and south of Denver, and I-70 through the mountains. It also will address improving safety with projects like safety improvements for Federal Boulevard, Denver’s most dangerous street, pedestrian improvements on Colfax and enhancing biking and walking connectivity. Over I-25. It will also invest nearly $700 million in a network of bus rapid transit corridors in the metro area.

Prop 110 represents the best chance we have to catch up on the growth Colorado has seen and fix our transportation system with a thoughtful, balanced set of investments that will be good for people and good for our air quality and environment. Please join us in voting yes on 110!

Jim Alexee

Jim Alexee

Jim Alexee is director of the Colorado Sierra Club.