From the Editor

Hitting the Snooze Button

October 2011

For most of us, a debate about infrastructure is the political equivalent of updating our wills or doing something about that damn “check engine” light. We know it’s important but we tell ourselves we can always worry about it tomorrow, right?

Wrong. Sure, that 50-year-old overpass we drive under every morning probably won’t collapse tomorrow. Probably. But Colorado has been ignoring its aging infrastructure for far too long. It’s now catching up with us in ways that are both dramatic and unexpected.

“Infrastructure: State of Disrepair,” a special package that begins on page 88 of this month’s issue, takes an uncompromising look at Colorado’s crumbling transportation system. Among our findings:

  • Half of the state’s highways are officially classified as being in “poor” condition, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
  • In 2009, 128 of the state’s bridges failed to rise above “poor” status, including the I-70 viaduct near the Purina dog food plant, which carries more than 130,000 vehicles each day.
  • To simply maintain our roads and bridges in their current sorry state, we’d need to come up with an additional $380 million in government funding. Annually. And that’s just to preserve the status quo. Actually improving the roads? Well, you can forget about that.

A disaster on our roads or bridges is hardly far-fetched. Four years ago, the collapse of a Minneapolis highway bridge claimed 13 lives. And even if Colorado avoids a headline-grabbing tragedy, this is an issue that impacts our lives every day. How many ski trips have you put off because you didn’t want to endure the hassle of I-70? How often do you alter your day to accommodate I-25’s ever-earlier gridlock? Slowly, but surely, the inability to easily move from one part of this great state to another is eroding the Colorado lifestyle we love.

Writers Patrick Doyle, Luc Hatlestad, and Lindsey B. Koehler have managed to take an admittedly dry subject and present it in a fascinating format. They’ve also explored a variety of possible solutions. However, given our ongoing economic constraints and Colorado’s already hamstrung political system, there aren’t any easy answers to our impending crisis. But when it comes to our roads and bridges, it’s time to stop hitting the snooze button.
Daniel Brogan, Editor & Publisher