Infrastructure Report State of Disrepair
Our state’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling. We’re not maintaining our roads; we’re not expanding our systems to meet the state’s growing population; and we’re not thinking creatively to engineer solutions. If we don’t repair things soon, our highways and bridges will be in jeopardy—along with our treasured Colorado lifestyle.
Explaining Colorado’s outdated motor fuel tax.
You know that small sticker you see on every gas pump that tells you part of the $3.46 per gallon you’re pumping goes to state and federal taxes? That money is how Colorado funds most of its transportation infrastructure.
In Colorado, the state tax is 22 cents per gallon of gasoline. The federal tax is just over 18 cents per gallon (although it was slated to expire on September 30). Those monies, combined with a handful of other income streams, create CDOT’s annual budget.
Here’s the problem: Colorado’s state gas tax has been 22 cents per gallon for 20 years—and it’s not likely to change any time soon. That the gas tax is not adjusted for inflation, which typically averages 3.38 percent, only compounds the problem. And with vehicles becoming more efficient (a Ford Explorer now gets 25 miles per gallon on the highway; a Toyota Prius gets 48), biofuels becoming more common, and hybrids filling the roads, our gasoline consumption appears to be on a downward trend. In 2010, Americans’ thirst for gas was eight percent less than in 2006, and some experts are predicting that by 2030 it will have dropped by at least 20 percent.
Our need for gasoline may be waning, but Colorado’s roads and bridges still hunger for the tax money fuel sales generate. It would cost about $10 billion to ensure that three-quarters of our roads are in good or fair condition in the next 10 years. Against currently projected revenue, we will be off that mark by $8.3 billion. So while that Prius seemed like the way to go environmentally, you may wish you’d invested in a Jeep—you might eventually need four-wheel drive to navigate I-70.
No. Higher Taxes?
“Most smart people that I speak with are amazed we haven’t raised the gas tax,” says Don Hunt, executive director of CDOT. And by “we,” Hunt means those with political clout. To raise the gas tax, someone with influence and the ability to raise the necessary funds would need to campaign to get a measure placed on a November ballot so Coloradans—a notoriously tax-averse group—could vote on it. Not surprisingly, no one has stepped up to deal with this political hand grenade since 1991. Which means Coloradans haven’t even been given the chance to vote on whether or not they’re OK with unsafe roads, crumbling bridges, increasing traffic congestion, and decreasing access to the mountains.