Cynthia Reed, of Montrose, hangs up the pump at the 700 E. Victory Way Kum & Go on Thursday, where the price of diesel was $4.55 a gallon. Colorado Department of Transportation relies on revenue from gasoline and diesel sales to pay for construction projects, but that is being affected because motorists are driving less because of high prices.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Cynthia Reed, of Montrose, hangs up the pump at the 700 E. Victory Way Kum & Go on Thursday, where the price of diesel was $4.55 a gallon. Colorado Department of Transportation relies on revenue from gasoline and diesel sales to pay for construction projects, but that is being affected because motorists are driving less because of high prices.

Gas tax revenue up from '07

Colorado roads could suffer if driver numbers keep declining

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By the numbers

Prices listed are for one gallon of 85-octane regular unleaded gasoline or one gallon of diesel fuel as of Thursday.

Sinclair, 666 W. First St.

• Unleaded: $4.18

• Diesel: $4.55

Petrowest, 301 School St.

• Unleaded: $4.17

• Diesel: $4.49

Conoco, 140 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $4.18

• Diesel: $4.55

Loaf 'N Jug, 2441 W. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $4.19

• Diesel: $4.55

Kum & Go, 895 Yampa Ave.

• Unleaded: $4.19

• Diesel: $4.55

Gofer Foods (Conoco) 923 E. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $4.19

• Diesel: $4.55

Kum & Go, 700 E. Victory Way

• Unleaded: $4.19

• Diesel: $4.55

Trevco, 702 Industrial Ave.

• Unleaded: $4.22

• Diesel: $4.55

— Although Americans are driving less, Coloradans are spending more on gas than they were a year ago.

Vehicle-bound transportation has been down for eight months nationwide, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Since November 2007, "Americans have driven 53.2 billion miles less than they did over the same period a year earlier," the Transportation Department reported, "topping the 1970s total decline of 49.3 billion miles."

A drop in traveled miles amounts to less total gallons of fuel purchased.

"During the first quarter of 2008, motorists consumed nearly 400 million fewer gallons of gasoline, or about 1.3 percent less than during the same period in 2007," according to the release.

During the first three months of 2008, drivers consumed 7 percent less diesel than they did during the same time frame in 2007.

Although buying less fuel may bring relief to the nation's drivers, it has the opposite effect on the Colorado Department of Transportation, which relies on gasoline and diesel tax sales as part of its revenue. CDOT collects 22 cents in taxes per gallon of gasoline and 20.5 cents per gallon of diesel sold, according to the department's Web site.

That tax hasn't increased since 1992.

The national trend appears not to have had a lasting impact on the amount of motor fuel tax dollars flowing into Colorado's Highway Users Tax Fund.

The state finished the 2008 fiscal year with almost $7.5 million more than it had at the end of the 2007 fiscal year, according to Colorado Department of Transportation records.

Numbers indicate that though Colorado drivers may be traveling less, they're still spending more for gas.

"If fewer people are driving, they may be driving (sport utility vehicles) because the motor fuel tax is actually higher in (2008) overall," said Nancy Shanks, CDOT public relations manager for Northwest Colorado.

Motor fuel taxes make up about 71 percent of the state's Highway Users Tax Fund, she said.

Although the state ended the fiscal year with more money, six months during the 2008 fiscal cycle showed declines in fuel tax revenue from 2007.

The largest of these was September 2007, which brought in nearly $41.8 million less than the same month in 2007.

In other months, a decrease in tax revenue was offset by revenue generated from motor vehicle registration, another Transportation Department funding source. Although the state's fuel tax funds sank more than $3.5 million from June 2007 to 2008, vehicle registration income increased by about $3.1 million during the same period.

CDOT ended the 2008 fiscal year with $933,874 more in vehicle registration funds than it did in 2007.

Still, during three months of the year, vehicle registration fees brought in at least $1 million less than they did in 2007.

Travel on Interstate 70 through Eisenhower Tunnel showed a similar mix of paradoxes this year.

The combined 142,411 travelers who passed through the tunnel from Aug. 1 to Aug. 3 this year ranked as the third-highest three-day traffic count in the 35 years since the tunnel was built, according to a CDOT news release.

Still, as of July 31, more than 131,000 fewer vehicles have passed through the tunnel than the same time in 2007, the release reported.

"There's certainly a concern there," Shanks said, "as fewer people are driving on the roads, it certainly could, ultimately : impact our motor fuel tax revenues."

At the same time, she said, the cost of transporting equipment and materials to CDOT projects is on the rise.

Given that trend, road users could see possible future decreases in tax revenue taking a toll in CDOT's construction projects.

"If this trend continues, then yes, it could impact us in the future," Shanks said.

Comments

grannyrett 6 years, 4 months ago

Okay people. Someone has got to explain this to me. If gas sales are down 400 million gallons, and diesel is down 7%, then how are gas tax revenue dollars up? Gas taxes are per gallon, right? Fewer gallons =fewer dollars. Right?

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lonelyone 6 years, 4 months ago

But we're still paying high pirces at the pump and I'm guessing they are talking about a certain time period. Kind of like they do when talking about our tax revenue being up for the 2nd quarter and we're actually in the 3rd quarter???? just a guess.

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