Glenwood chamber joins coalition to push road improvements | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood chamber joins coalition to push road improvements

Marianne Virgili
Inside the Chamber

The most important work we do as a chamber of commerce is work our members and community know little about. It’s done in meetings at City Hall. It’s done in phone calls to state legislators. It’s done via countless email communications and personal conversations with local officials.

In the past few months we lobbied for the return of fireworks on the 4th of July; appeared at a liquor board hearing for a new restaurant owner to get his license; made phone calls to garner support of the Colorado snow tire law; and initiated an urgent effort to kill a bill that would have eliminated the successful Bustang service to Denver.

Every once in awhile we get to be proactive instead of reactive. We recently became a sponsoring organization for the Fix Colorado Roads Act.

The recent I-70 rockslide brought home the importance of this vital transportation corridor as well as the importance of permanent and reliable state transportation funding. In Colorado our transportation infrastructure challenges are so great that they are threatening our economic competitiveness. So we have joined our partners at CDOT and chambers throughout the state, including Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, South Metro Denver and the Vail Valley Partnership, to form the Fix Colorado Roads Coalition.

We believe the status quo on our roadways threatens the vibrancy of our economy, our attractiveness as a destination for business and tourism and our quality of life. As witnessed by I-70 weekend gridlock, tourist destinations can become less attractive when it is a growing challenge to get there and back in a reasonable time.

Coloradans know our roads are in dire need of repair and expansion — with 90 percent agreeing to that fact in recent polling. In every region of the state, fixing Colorado’s roads is the most important funding priority.

Did you know that Colorado devotes no permanent and reliable general fund dollars to our transportation woes? That is one major reasons our transportation system is failing to keep pace with our state’s economic and population growth.

Current law, passed in 2009, is volatile and temporary, enacted as a stopgap with the belief that a permanent source of general fund dollars for roads would be enacted.

By comparison, Utah and Texas, two of our strongest economic competitors, contribute mightily from their general fund revenues to fund and further enhance their already robust transportation infrastructure capacity program. Until 2009, Colorado dedicated up to 11 percent of its sales and use tax revenues to transportation funding.

Seventy-five percent of voters believe Colorado should find money to fund transportation projects in the state’s current budget by changing spending priorities or finding new ways to save money in government programs.

Meanwhile, CDOT is to be commended for dedicating a small portion of its annual budget since 1999 to finance and accelerate the construction of major infrastructure transportation projects throughout Colorado. It’s a model that should be continued.

With interest rates at their lowest in history, the state can bond against new and existing revenue to generate approximately $3.5 billion in bond proceeds, a lump sum that can be used to accelerate much-needed transportation projects throughout Colorado.

A growing coalition of business groups and local governments from every region of the state believes that 2016 is the year for a bipartisan solution to fix Colorado roads. The goals are:

• Funding sufficient to seriously and aggressively address Colorado’s current and future transportation needs.

• Reliable, permanent general fund commitment to transportation infrastructure.

• Optimally use and leverage existing and new transportation funding streams.

• Build large-scale roadway expansion programs statewide.

• Maintain and improve the existing system.

• Gain broad-based support in the Legislature and among Colorado voters.

We propose to couple a new, permanent general fund commitment to transportation infrastructure with a continued CDOT commitment to dedicate a small portion of its budget to fund a $3.5 billion Fix Colorado Roads bond program.

The Fix Colorado Roads bond program would be referred by the Legislature to the voters in the November 2016 election.

The robust funding and finance program would support road projects statewide touching every legislative district. It would include three signature projects — and the first one is for us:

• I-70 west: Projects throughout the corridor plus seed funding for the next phase of expansion.

• North I-25: State Highway 14 south to US Highway 36.

• South I-25: Monument Hill to Castle Rock.

Bonding, supported by a combination of stable general funds and existing gas tax revenues, is the best route to achieve consensus among policy makers, business leaders and taxpayers.

To express your support for the drive to Fix Colorado Roads visit http://www.FixColoradoRoads.com.

Marianne Virgili is President & CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.


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