That’s how many cars travel between Colorado Springs and Denver every day on Interstate 25.
And that’s the cost of delays and wasted fuel sitting in traffic jams across the state. In Colorado Springs, it costs $460 for every licensed driver.
And the biggest culprit for locals is the 26-mile stretch of I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock. It’s a problem that the Colorado Department of Transportation acknowledges — and they have launched a $3.75 million study to look at solutions.
The problem: That solution could be a decade away. And Colorado Springs doesn’t have a decade to wait.
During the next 10 years, the city’s population will continue to grow, with people attracted by more-affordable housing, as well as the Springs’ proximity to the mountains. As more people choose to live in Colorado Springs and work in Denver, traffic snarls will become a routine problem, leading to even more wasted time, wasted money and wasted fuel. The delay will cause increased smog, create more air quality alert days and release still more greenhouse gases.
It’s an unnecessary delay. Widening I-25 on that 26-mile stretch will cost roughly $200 million — money the state says it doesn’t have. But it does.
Finding the money is as simple as a single legislative change: Removing the hospital provider fee from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights revenue limits. The provider fee isn’t a tax, but a fee paid by hospitals to make sure they receive matching federal dollars. Last year, the legislature instead opted to cut the fee, which led to a cut of the matching dollars. Thousands of residents across Colorado lost access to health care as a result, when Medicaid dollars were cut to rural hospitals.
It was an unnecessary cut, one that targeted the state’s most vulnerable population. Opponents to removing the fee claim the state has plenty of money and the people elected to manage the budget can’t be trusted with the additional money it would bring.
So here’s a compromise. Spend the money to widen Interstate 25, relieving congestion and easing the flow of commerce between Colorado Springs and Denver. Earmark the money every year for a long-delayed infrastructure project that benefits the entire state.
Failure to act costs the region. Tourists turn back to Denver when traffic snarls; the slow flow of commerce and moving products costs companies money; people interested in relocating to the Springs might change their mind after spending a couple of hours stuck in a seemingly endless traffic jam.
Colorado Springs leaders need to be more vocal about the need for action for Interstate 25. The El Paso County delegation to the General Assembly should argue in favor of faster action for Interstate 25. As the main corridor between the state’s two largest cities, Interstate 25 is vital to the improved economic development in Colorado. It’s important to expand the city’s industrial base, to remove reliance on military and defense as roughly half of its business base. It’s needed to attract companies to Colorado Springs and to bring tourists from Denver to America’s Mountain.
To delay serves only to create stress for drivers on a grand scale.