As the chair of the transportation committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I know that our challenge will be to improve Colorado's transportation system to move people and goods more efficiently and safely. We recognize that land use and transportation are closely linked and like so many other competing priorities for scarce taxpayer dollars, we will need to work in ways that promote regional collaboration, innovation and efficiency.
* Leverage federal resources to improve infrastructure. According to The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) there are over 115 bridges that are 75 years old, and stretches of highways that are 75-100 years old.
* Develop Multi-Modal and Sustainable Transportation platforms. Examples include: Dial-A-Ride, transit job access transportation programs, ride-share programs, car and bicycle-sharing and vehicle idling programs.
* Promote Innovative Financing via Public Private Partnerships (P3).
* Advance recommendations for I-70 corridor.
* Stronger Aviation and Airports Systems.
* Create a Statewide Transportation Network.
"This nation cannot deal with our energy and climate challenges, without confronting the transportation sector." -John Hickenlooper (March 2009 Senate Testimony)
A key component to sustainable growth and economic development is for Colorado's transportation system to meet the demands of moving goods, services and people in an efficient manner along key corridors. This means improvement and expansion of not only roads but all other means of transit, including rail (freight and passenger) and air.
The Denver metropolitan region is projected to grow approximately 65% between 2005 and 2030, with State growth projected to increase to seven million residents by 2030, making Colorado the eighth-fastest growing state in the nation. As our population increases, so will the demand for more efficient modes of transportation. Paying for more roads is not a complete answer to the challenge; we need a strategic plan that prioritizes how we will use the money that Colorado will have available.
We have a record of working collaboratively across regions and in a nonpartisan way. In 2004 voters across eight counties (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson and Weld) passed unprecedented financing of the most ambitious transit program in the nation. Known as FasTracks, its light rail and commuter rail corridors, together with its bus rapid transit and other modes, will eventually connect the outermost parts of the metro region to each other, including DIA. Jobs, education, healthcare, and housing all will be more accessible and more affordable when FasTracks is completed.
We have a record that demonstrates our commitment to transportation. Like our "Green Fleet" program which was the first in the nation to purchase alternative fuel vehicles for city use. Today, it remains one of the largest fleets in the country. From FasTracks to Bus Rapid Transit to Green Fleets, we know transportation and we know that we can continue to develop, build and implement Transportation Demand Management strategies that effectively and efficiently moves people and goods from our most rural communities to our most densely populated corridors.
Strategies and Solutions
Pioneering Legislation & State Budgets: Colorado recently passed the FASTER legislation-a bill that received statewide support and was created out of the Blue Ribbon Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel representing all parts of the State. Many of Colorado's immediate transportation needs such as the repairs and replacements of structurally deficient bridges and roads are now being addressed. FASTER also initiated new transit-funding initiatives, provided the framework for innovative financing of strategic corridor projects such as I-70, and is bringing much needed economic support to the construction industry through the creation of jobs. FASTER was the result of statewide bipartisanship and we will encourage similar approaches and solutions to meet our many other transportation challenges.
We understand that Colorado's transportation policies must be comprehensive in order to respond to future growth. We support the State Legislature's creation of a transit division within the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to facilitate and monitor rail and bus transportation modes.
Leveraging Resources to Improve Infrastructure: Colorado currently has over 100 structurally-deficient bridges rated in poor condition and many more bridges designated as functionally-obsolete. Our transportation infrastructure is aging. According to CDOT, there are 115 bridges that are 75 years old, stretches of highways that are 75-100 years old, and expanses of interstate that are approximately 50 years-old. We have to prioritize the funding of key projects, while leveraging State dollars with federal funds to repair our important transportation infrastructure.
Development of Multi-Modal & Sustainable Transportation Platforms: Colorado has several low-cost multimodal transportation programs in place that assist with vehicle and emission reduction programs. These include Dial-A-Ride, transit job access transportation programs, rideshare programs (carpool/vanpool), car and bicycle-sharing and vehicle idling programs. In the future, transit will be increasingly important in urban areas, mountain communities and growing rural areas alike. We will continue to support and grow alternative transportation programs that improve access while at the same time protecting the State's air quality.
As energy costs increase so does our need to develop sustainable transportation practices. FasTracks and the Denver B-Cycle program demonstrate our commitment to sustainable innovation. The B-Cycle program, modeled after European bike programs, is America's first citywide bike-sharing system. B-cycle is helping Denver residents increase daily activity and reduce carbon emissions with the country's first citywide bike-sharing system. The program launched in April 2010 with 500 B-cycles at 50 B-stations around Denver, offers a green alternative to cars for short commutes and errands. In order for these types of programs to be successful, bicycle and pedestrian needs must be considered in every transportation improvement project. That may include sidewalks, wider roadway shoulders or bike paths wherever feasible in order to make transportation safer for all modes of travel.
Innovative Financing: Innovative Public Private Partnerships (P3), demand-driven pricing or dynamic pricing and mileage-based pricing programs have statewide support from stakeholders who understand the increased demand on our transportation system and the financial challenges we face. A current example of a Federally-sponsored P3 program is the Regional Transportation District's Public-Private Partnership currently on two FasTracks corridors including the line from downtown Denver to DIA, leveraging $458 million in private funding. Through innovative financing and a good federal partner the opportunity exists to grow and maintain our transportation infrastructure.
Federal Funding Opportunities: Securing federal funding in this challenging economic climate requires that we strategically engage our community leaders and elected officials to ensure that the State receives transportation funding on an annual basis. The U.S. Congress must act quickly to pass a long-term federal transportation funding bill. The absence of such a bill makes it difficult for transportation agencies to plan and operate. On a State level, passing short term extensions rather than a long term bill does not provide adequate multi-year funding in order to move transportation projects forward.
As federal grant dollars are scarce, federal loan programs are increasingly popular. For example, the Transportation Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (TIFIA) program makes up to one-third of the cost of a project available in the form of a low-interest loan that can be subordinate to the rest of the project's financing package. Projects that are revenue-generating are well-suited for this kind of financing mechanism. We must explore this and other strategies for transportation project financing across the state.
Funding a statewide transportation program poses enormous challenges during a time of declining State and Federal revenues. The 2009 State transportation budget includes American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that add more than $500 million of one-time transportation resources to Colorado and translates to 18,061 jobs for Coloradans. ARRA allowed for new transportation projects that include additional repairs of State roads and bridges, and improvement of transit systems across the State. We will work to ensure that these monies are used effectively and will immediately begin identifying longer term solutions for transportation in Colorado.
Commerce & Jobs: Transportation spending creates good, well-paying jobs. In the past year over 22,000 transportation jobs were created or sustained because of ARRA and FASTER funding, generating over $31 million in payroll to Colorado residents. We will continue to work closely in partnership with the private sector to generate new jobs and draw down revenue to grow and develop our transportation networks.
The manufacturing, energy, tourism, agricultural and travel industries are fundamental to Colorado's success. We will work to develop alternative transportation methods that educate and encourage businesses to use smart transportation alternatives for their employees. A multimodal transportation system is critical to attracting and maintaining businesses in Colorado. Given the state of the economy, every business in Colorado should be able to move goods, people and employees using the interconnectivity of our transportation modes. We will work together to develop innovative transportation alternatives that maximize the movement of goods and people and improve air quality. Additionally, we will work to find sustainable long term funding strategies on a state and federal level and maintain a bipartisan dialogue in reaching consensus.
Advance Recommendations for the I-70 Corridor: The Interstate-70 (I-70) West Mountain Corridor is a critical corridor that impacts commerce, tourism, recreation, and overall economic development in Colorado. After years of contentious debate, there is now a consensus recommendation from stakeholders along the corridor for multi-modal I-70 improvements. This recommendation includes a combination of highway improvements and an "advanced guideway" system. The big question facing Colorado is how to fund these needed improvements. We are committed to convening stakeholders and exploring all funding opportunities to address the long-term needs while strategically seeking short-term solutions to provide immediate relief to the corridor's year-round congestion problems.
Immediate and Strategic ideas for the I-70 corridor include:
* Work with CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to complete the I-70 Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), with the consensus recommendation as the preferred alternative, in a timely fashion.
* Pursue projects that do not require completion of the PEIS such as safety projects, community mitigation projects, environmental projects and some highway widening.
* Start an alignment study for high speed rail.
* Implement more Travel Demand Management (TDM) projects. Examples include incentivizing truckers and local communities to find ways to consolidate deliveries and avoid peak travel periods and running direct transit service from Denver to mountain towns during peak seasons.
* Implement Transportation System Management projects and carefully review the viability of proposals such as "zipper lanes".
* Work with Colorado's congressional delegation to designate I-70 as a Project of National and Regional Significance in the federal transportation re-authorization process.
Strong Aviation & Airport System: Colorado has 14 commercial airports and 60 general aviation airports, generating an annual economic output of more than $32 billion. Whether it is providing international travel, resort destination travel, or connectivity to smaller communities, aviation is a critical part of the Colorado economy. The State's airport program is self-supporting, being funded through sales and excise taxes on aviation fuel and related aviation activities.
There is a synergy between airport development and economic growth that impacts tourism, business development and job creation. Colorado airports work together as a network to provide convenient and affordable transportation, as well as being stand-alone economic generators. Denver International Airport (DIA) is the fifth largest airport in the country, and the second largest Star Alliance hub in the U.S., providing non-stop service to 167 destinations and connecting Colorado to the world. Many firms list DIA as one of their top reasons for relocation to Colorado and we must work in close collaboration with our airport network to support our economic development efforts. Aspen, Centennial, Colorado Springs, Eagle (Vail), Front Range, Jefferson County, Rocky Mountain and Telluride all play a critical role in connecting Colorado that we must continue to build on.
Creating a Statewide Transportation Network: The transportation network must integrate with communities statewide, to ensure that Coloradans can get where they need to go as safely, quickly and inexpensively as possible. Residents should have a choice between different modes of travel - including transit, walking and bicycling - wherever possible. Evidence from around the country demonstrates that modest increases in walking and cycling can also lead to lower health care costs.
* Land use and transportation decisions should be made collaboratively. Disconnected decisions drive up the costs of transportation (and other public) infrastructure.
* The transportation system should contribute to reductions in air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
* The modes of transportation should support the independence of our aging population, lower-income persons and persons with disabilities. Transit-friendly and "walkable" communities are essential to older and less-mobile persons, as well as those with lower incomes.
* Colorado should examine the expanded use of regional transportation authorities ("RTAs") and other mechanisms to increase transportation funding at regional and local levels. RTAs and similar mechanisms allow voters to approve additional funding for transportation projects in geographic areas where there is a demonstrated need and value to residents.
In a time of scarce funding resources, we need to establish priorities and collaboratively explore additional funding options.