Peak & Prairie
August / September 1999
Voters to Decide Transportation Questions
by Don Thompson
One statewide and one metro Denver transportation issue will be on the fall ballot. The statewide issue, called by its supporters "TRANS" would call for the issuance of bonds to fund highway expansion and repair. The borrowings would be repaid from future federal highway funding with the anticipation that the cost of borrowing would be less than the inflation rate for highway construction.
Transit advocates question the proposed uses for the money to be raised since much of the money would go to expand I-25 in Denver where the transportation studies instead called for the addition of transit, and little or no highway expansion. Highway funding was defeated last year by 62 percent of the voters when the issue was combined with funding for education. Like our funding for education (49th of the 50 states) our transportation funding is also not well ranked. Colorado is one of only six states in the nation that does not provide any state funding for transit. While most state funding for transportation is provide by fuel taxes, there is also funding from general taxes such as the income tax and sales tax. With one of five citizens either too old, too young or just unwilling to drive, there is a strong case for statewide funding for public transit.
In the Regional Transportation District (RTD), votes will be asked to support an increase in the borrowing authority for the district with the money to be used along with federal funding for the construction of light rail on I-25 in Denver. A component of the borrowing question would be the "De-Bruceing" necessary to ensure money to pay off the bonds. No additional funding would be required. Final wording for the question has yet to be decided, but unlike the TRANS issue, the use of the money is not in question. Again, unlike the TRANS issue, the project proposed is in the regional transportation plan and will provide a long term solution to a major Denver transportation problem. It will help ensure that options on other major investment corridors will remain open such as construction of the east and west corridors in Denver, the US 36 corridor from Boulder to Denver, and options to Golden and other major population areas.
The Transportation and the Conservation Committees of the Club have supported the proposal being put forward by RTD because of the beneficial aspects of public transit. They have not yet decided to either support or oppose the highway funding issue. With the failure of metro voters to approve additional taxing authority for RTD recently, it will be necessary for RTD to convince them that the proposal is rational and will provide benefits for the majority. RTD must inform the voters of their "on time - on budget" construction of the original light rail line, and their performance to date on the southwest line, and of the substantial subsidy provide for the private automobile to convince the voters to look favorably on their ballot question.
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