Report on bad roads’ impact on your wallet will be a go-to source in Colorado transportation talks

Author: Joey Bunch - March 14, 2017 - Updated: June 4, 2017

As the debate over the transportation dollars intensifies in the statehouse, there will be plenty of citations from a report released earlier this month by TRIP, a national transportation research group.

The toll traffic takes in vehicle costs, delays and crashes from “deficient” roads is staggering, according to the nonprofit research organization that is sponsored by insurance companies and businesses involved in highway and transit engineering.

In Denver, residents pay an average of $2,162 a year in fuel, repairs and operations because of crowded or bumpy roads. In Colorado Springs the estimate is $1,954. Northern Colorado residents pay an extra $1,396; Grand Junction, $1,264; and Pueblo, $1,553.

“With an economy based largely on manufacturing, agriculture, natural resource extraction and tourism, the quality of Colorado’s transportation system plays a vital role in the state’s economic growth and quality of life,” according to the report.

People are driving 22 percent more miles in Colorado in 2015 than they did in 2000, and by 2030 the mileage is expected to increase another 20 percent, researchers said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has identified $9 billion in needs. The legislature is working on a plan to borrow $3.5 billion in bonds.

Last week House and Senate leaders unveiled a plan to raise $667 million annually with a 0.62 percent sales tax hike. The plan, however, has to get past opposition in the legislature and pass on the ballot in November.

“The TRIP report provides further evidence that the need to meaningfully address our state’s transportation system with a balanced and pragmatic funding and finance approach is great,” said Sandra Hagen Solin, who represents the main statewide coalition pushing for more transportation, Fix Colorado Roads.

“With an average cost to the metro area driver of over $2,000, the cost of our leaders doing nothing has become unacceptable. Fortunately, the conversation among leaders has begun.”

The report says 41 percent of Colorado’s major urban routes are in “poor” condition, and another 43 percent are in “mediocre” or fair condition. That leaves just 15 percent are in “good” condition.

TRIP cites the Federal Highway Administration’s estimate that for every $1 spent on transportation improvements yields an average $5.20 in reduced vehicle maintenance costs, delays, fuel consumption and safety.

Other findings include:

  • Traffic crashes in Colorado imposed a total of $4.9 billion in economic costs in 2015. TRIP estimates that traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $1.6 billion in economic costs in 2015.

  • According to a 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, the economic costs of traffic crashes includes work and household productivity losses, property damage, medical costs, rehabilitation costs, legal and court costs, congestion costs and emergency services.

  • Roadway features that impact safety include the number of lanes, lane widths, lighting, lane markings, rumble strips, shoulders, guard rails, other shielding devices, median barriers and intersection design. The cost of serious crashes includes lost productivity, lost earnings, medical costs and emergency services.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


  • Tannim

    March 14, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Costs to motorists is a red herring.

    The real issue is road condition and traffic flow.

    When dealing with traffic, the goal is to have an organized plan to optimize traffic flow, on quality roads that have been engineered well.

    Colorado, courtesy of bad governments at all levels, doesn’t have that.

    In order to get Colorado’s roads and highways into the 21st Century, there needs to be an effort to get the government’s act together and understand not only what it takes to get the job done right, but also the political will and engineering wisdom to get it done. More taxes and debt aren’t going to do that, and neither is partisan nonsense in the Legislature, where they simply are incompetent to plan infrastructure correctly, nor CDOT, who doesn’t understand road engineering.


    • Robert Chase

      March 14, 2017 at 8:24 am

      “Costs to motorists is a red herring” — only if you suppose that Colorado has no transportation deficit and that voters will not be asked to approve needed taxes; I would concede that the State has a deficit of wit as well as money, but only the most doctrinaire propose to maintain roads and bridges without any new revenue at all.


  • Robert Chase

    March 14, 2017 at 8:28 am

    What better demonstration could there be that our State lacks all effective leadership? In the face of the very real need to maintain our transportation infrastructure, no proposal to raise our disproportionately low tax on gas is made — instead we are to choose between raising the sales tax for twenty years and letting the General Assembly spend the proceeds how it wants or not increasing any tax and enjoining the General Assembly to do better for transportation without any new revenue. Colorado dumb!


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