State Transportation Commission Urges Congress to Take Action for Transportation in Colorado

September 1, 2011 - Statewide Transportation Plan - DENVER—As the deadline for Congressional action to preserve funding for critical transportation projects and maintain private-sector engineering and construction jobs approaches, the Colorado Transportation Commission is asking Congress to do the right thing and ensure that federal highway and transit programs and projects don’t shut down.

The seventh extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation expires on September 30. This bill provides about $500 million dollars annually to Colorado for highway projects and programs and an additional $200 million for transit projects and programs.  Should Congress not take action by September 30 to either extend the current authorization bill or pass a new bill, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will not receive the necessary funding to move forward with critical transportation projects currently planned across the state. In fact, 41 highway resurfacing and reconstruction projects across the state could be impacted in the current fiscal year (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012).  There are numerous other safety projects that could be impacted as well.

“Colorado’s Congressional Delegation has been supportive of transportation in the past and has set the example for other Members of Congress in Washington D.C.,” said Steve Parker, chairman of the Colorado Transportation Commission. “The Commission strongly urges our delegation to come together once again and put aside partisan politics in support of transportation projects important to communities across Colorado.”

The lack of a long-term transportation bill also impacts transportation project planning for the future and may also slow existing projects as CDOT won’t have the funds necessary to pay contractors on existing projects for an extended amount of time.  Federal highway funding is based on a reimbursement process. CDOT fronts the money for projects and is then paid back by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Colorado has hundreds of federal-aid projects currently under way and is expecting to seek reimbursement of about $50 million from FHWA for the month of September.

“This is not the time to delay or to reduce transportation funding,” said Tony Milo, executive director for the Colorado Contractor’s Association. “There are thousands of jobs at stake and a backlog of transportation projects that are not only necessary but critical to the economic health of our state and quality of life of Coloradans.”

Parker added, “As the cost of maintaining our transportation system continues to increase and the Commission’s ability to take care of our highways and bridges is becoming increasingly more difficult, it’s in the best interest of Colorado for Congress to pass or extend a reauthorization bill to continue the federal transportation projects and programs funded at current levels, at a minimum, and extend the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax that provides the revenue to fund them.”