Transportation budget cuts could lead to project delays, longer waits in traffic

CDOT: State help $40 million less than expected
Posted at 12:38 AM, Nov 03, 2016

DENVER - With state revenue growing more slowly than anticipated, Governor John Hickenlooper’s proposed 2017 budget includes several major cuts.

CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said the transportation budget is about $50 million less than they’d hoped for.

“The total transportation budget is $1.4 billion,” she said, “with most of the revenue coming from state and federal gas taxes.”

Ford told Denver7 that an estimated $80 million will come from the state General Fund.  She said last year, that figure was about $100 to 120 million.

“This is a challenging budget situation right now,” she said. “Everyone needs to do their share.”

Ford said the money that is available will go to some very significant projects.

“North I-25, the expansion of that is one of them,” she said, referring to the stretch from Highway 66 up to Fort Collins.

When asked what the cuts will mean for motorists, Ford replied, “It will potentially slow down some of the projects.”

She said that’s not something they want to have happen, “but the reality is there is a significant amount of need and a lot of congestion.  We have programs on the books to address some of them but without the funds to make improvements, like adding a new express lane on westbound I-70 into the mountains, people are still going to have to sit in traffic.”  

Ford also used I-25 between Castle Rock and Monument as an example.

“It’s clearly a pressing need,” she said. “We’ve started a study but don’t have funds identified to do any improvements.  Budgets like this will have that kind of impact and delay improvement there for a while.”

Ford said there is a billion dollar gap each year between “needs and funding.”

“I think it’s important to recognize that the gas tax has not changed since the early 90s,” she said.  “It is a flat-tax which means it does not go up with inflation.”

Ford added that as Colorado continues to grow, more cars end up on the state’s highways.  But many are very fuel efficient, so owners are purchasing less gas and are paying fewer gas taxes.

She said the state is now looking at alternative methods of funding transportation.