21 October 2005

TABOR Is Bad for Roads.

Once again, the Rocky has the scoop:

In 1999, the state estimated it would cost $9.2 billion for 28 top-priority highway corridors, including the massive T-REX job on Interstate 25 in Denver.

By 2002, the recession had choked off state funds for highway projects, with only half the work finished or fully funded. So the unfunded projects were put on hold.

Today, the state figures the remaining work will cost $11.7 billion.

That's right. It'll cost more to do half the projects than the original estimate for doing all of them.

Figuring out how to keep highways in decent shape has challenged the Colorado Department of Transportation, which has lost 14 percent of its budget since 2001. Counting the bond funds it has now exhausted, there has been a 41 percent drop in total resources.

CDOT's budget is less than it was eight years ago - not only when adjusted for inflation, but in actual hard cash.

CDOT is spending $817 million this fiscal year, which comes from state gas tax revenues and federal funds, but no money from the state's general fund. In 1998, CDOT spent $899 million.

If its budget had kept up with 3 percent inflation and 3 percent traffic growth, today's CDOT budget would be more than $1.4 billion.

After several years of delaying projects, CDOT says it will have to put even more on hold - from $271 million to $376 million of already approved projects - if voters don't pass Referendums C and D on Nov. 1.

The gas tax simply hasn't kept up with rising repair costs and growth in driving that exceeds growth in gas tax collections, and general revenues have no been used to an extent sufficient to close the gap.

In the long run, the problem is that the gas tax of 22 cents a gallon collected by Colorado is not sufficient to maintain the roads. For now, we need Referrenda C and D.

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