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Local News

Investing in the Present and Future of Transportation in Colorado

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Armand Jackson

Before state leaders passed a transportation investment bill, Colorado’s transportation infrastructure was known for being outdated as it suffered the consequences of underinvestment in maintenance and repairs, especially in areas like roads, bridges, and public transit. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Colorado’s overall infrastructure a C- grade on its 2020 infrastructure report card, giving roads a C-, bridges a C+, and public transit a C-. ASCE offers key facts about each section of the state’s infrastructure and found that the common issue across these three categories is a significant lack of yearly funding to improve conditions. According to the report card, low investments in operation, maintenance, expansion, and innovation, as well as a state gas tax that has not increased since 1991, has made 22 percent of Colorado’s roads in poor condition.

This has caused motorists to pay $651 per year in costs due to additional road repairs, traffic crashes and time lost in congestion. Of Colorado’s 8,786 bridges, 481 of them are rated as structurally deficient and require significant maintenance or replacement due to one of the key structural elements being in poor condition. Among other solutions it is recommended that Colorado encourages more public transit options to reduce the impact on bridge structures. The state’s public transit system however, has experienced a statewide funding gap for rural and urban transit as well as other funding shortfalls that have caused cuts to bus service, decreased ridership and increased operating costs. 

Federal aid from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) focuses on repairing and rebuilding Colorado’s roads and bridges, as well as fund innovation for ecologically sustainable public transportation options for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians while addressing climate change. The state is expected to receive $3.7 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs over five years. State officials will have the opportunity to compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of national funding dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities. Colorado would receive $916 million over five years to improve public transportation options across the state. There also seems to be a number of new and expanded competitive grant programs in the bill that will assist in these infrastructure efforts.

ASCE seems to approve of the additional funding that IIJA provides to improve the condition of Colorado’s infrastructure. According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the bill paired with Colorado’s own infrastructure investments will bolster the state’s economy while addressing climate change. The state also recently received $51 million in federal funds for low and zero-emission transit projects across the state, with an emphasis on assisting smaller and rural community transit systems.

Colorado leadership has taken steps necessary to mitigate the state’s carbon footprint such as promoting electric vehicles as well as providing less funding for road expansion while investing billions of dollars towards cleaner transportation projects for the decades to come starting with the Denver region which could potentially see these infrastructure changes in the metropolitan area. According to reporting from CPRNews, board members of the Denver Regional Council of Governments will vote in September on a long term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.