A conflict of visions on transportation funding

Governor John Hickenlooper unsurprisingly said transportation projects need money in his keynote address at the recent 8th Legislative breakfast, at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield (hosted by 36 Commuting Solutions and the Northwest Chamber Alliance).carsUS36

The Governor illustrated the transportation situation by reminding everyone that highway utilization has increased 50% in the last 20 years while capacity has increased only 2%.  While not offering leadership or ideas for addressing the situation, he described himself as ‘agnostic’ and open to any compromise.

Speaking prior to Hickenlooper, Democratic Representatives KC Becker and Diane Mitsch Bush along with Republican State Senator John Cooke set the tone of the meeting.  TRANS bonds were alluded to as a near-term approach, but the necessity of a dedicated, enduring tax revenue stream was deemed essential both for bond repayment and downstream projects.

Negoicon_2016_report_commtiating positions were marked out by both sides for the coming legislative session.  Senator Cooke cautioned upon the necessity of having new road funds entirely committed to road transportation projects.  While both Democrats used a more holistic definition of transportation, insisting on inclusion of multi-modal systems (mass-transit, bike lanes, etc.) in transportation projects.

While the nine-inch snowfall prevented several invited legislators from attending, most of those signed up attended.  Representatives of the sponsoring groups gave an enthusiastic recap of what they called Northwest Region’s Transportation Progress and Priorities.  The recap focused mostly on the completion of the $497 million Public-Private-Partnership project on US36.

Ironically, what they labelled successes were alluded to by Representative Becker, who represents parts of Boulder, as a situation that caused intense feelings of unfairness.  She promised more fairness in future projects.  The 50-year contract awarded to Plenary Roads Denver to operate US36 had been intensely scrutinized by anti-automobile groups such as COPIRG, which is based in Boulder.

36 Commuting Solutions is a Transportation Management Organization (TMO) advocacy and lobbying group.  They tout the US36 Express lanes, the Flatiron Flyer and US 36 Bikeway as accomplishments.

The Northwest Chamber Alliance is a recent creation of the Chambers of Commerce for Longmont, Broomfield and spearheaded by the Boulder chamber.

Bruce Baker is an elected member of the Westminster City Council.


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