The state’s highways are congested and overused.
What we think:
The decision to wait until the next session of the General Assembly is only causing unnecessary delays to find solutions.
Gov. John Hickenlooper missed an opportunity to address the state’s congested interstate highways when he refused to call a special session to revive the issue of funding for state and local roads.
With the start of summer tourism season, Interstate 25 and Interstate 70 will be even more congested — while county roads and city streets will see increased traffic as frustrated drivers seek alternate routes to avoid delays. That additional traffic leads to more maintenance needed at the local level and more costs to local taxpayers.
When the latest session of the General Assembly ended in early May, the lawmakers left work unfinished; they neglected to agree on new major funding for transportation. Hickenlooper toyed with the idea of a special session, but ultimately opted not to call the legislators back to Denver.
Failing to find a solution — either in regular session or a session called specifically for transportation — leaves a major issue unresolved for at least the rest of the year. There won’t be any discussion of widening Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, won’t be a solution to finding money to expand the interstate between Denver and Fort Collins or to improve Interstate 70, the state’s main highway to the mountains and winter tourism getaways.
The problem is more than mere benign neglect of the state’s transportation systems; it’s also a failure of leadership. It seems that once it was clear that the General Assembly wasn’t on board for additional sales taxes, as proposed by a coalition of both parties, all other solutions were off the table.
That leaves cities and counties along the Front Range responsible for the additional traffic on their roads and bridges, while continuing to let the state off the hook for addressing the roadways it is responsible for updating and maintaining.
The special session could have continued a much-needed conversation throughout the state: how to balance the needs of fast-growing Colorado Springs with those of Fort Collins, Boulder and the mountain resorts.
Instead, the legislators will spend the next six months listening to complaints of constituents, but without a firm sense of where the state will find the money to expand the highway system while also seeking alternatives such as a light-rail system.
The failure to make the hard choices now means more delays in fixing congestion. Interstate 25 needs to be expanded now — not in five years or a decade. Traffic backups occur for miles with even a single minor accident, and tourists won’t enjoy the delay when they make day trips between Denver and Colorado Springs.
Commerce is similarly affected. No one wants to sit in traffic for a business trip to and from Denver. And with more people opting for El Paso County’s less expensive real estate, traffic backups for regular commuters are a daily problem, not an occasional issue.
The state’s transportation problems will not fix themselves. Colorado Springs has taken steps to address local road issues. It’s up to state leaders to address interstate highways so that if Congress acts to pass transportation legislation, the state is ready with projects that need additional federal dollars.