Looking for an alternative

CDOT planning for decreased federal funding for FY 2009

If the Colorado Department of Transportation doesn't find a way to supplement its budget, it could be doing more repairs and less construction.

"We do not have the funds for any construction," said Weldon Allen, CDOT regional transportation director for 14 counties in Northwest and North Central Colorado.

Several methods could help fund the department's projects in the future, including an amendment aimed at diverting added oil and gas revenues to transportation projects.

The alternative, Allen said, is a state transportation department that delivers only repairs, not major construction.

"Otherwise, what we're looking at is a complete maintenance program," Allen said. "We will not be replacing bridges, we will not be doing major overlay projects and, for sure, we will not be doing any : major improvements on any corridors," including U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 13, which run through Northwest Colorado.

That could be a problem, especially in energy-impacted areas, including Moffat County, Allen said.

"We need to try to keep up (roads) up there if we can, with all the development that's coming in," he said, adding that oil and gas development brings in wider and heavier loads and more traffic on the county's thoroughfares.

CDOT's federal revenue is estimated to drop by $163 million during the 2009 fiscal year, Allen said.

Like CDOT, the U.S. Department of Transportation collects taxes on gas and diesel sales. And, like Colorado, the national transportation department is feeling the effects of a lower number of fuel sales, Allen said.

Nationwide, Americans are driving less this year than they were in 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently reported in a news release.

The trend hasn't seemed to have an effect on CDOT.

At least, not yet.

CDOT collected about $7.5 million more in motor fuel taxes during the 2008 fiscal year than it did during the 2007 fiscal cycle, according to department records.

Still, while Colorado drivers aren't taking to the roads less, they are driving more fuel-efficient cars, Allen said.

Gas and diesel tax revenues flow into CDOT's Highway Users Tax Fund, which makes up a majority of the department's budget, he said.

Funds generated by Colorado House Bill 1310 will also take away from CDOT funding. CDOT could use a portion of the bill's funding when the state's budget could support it.

Proceeds from HB 1310 are "really crucial for us in Northwest Colorado," Allen said, "because we've used that to supplement construction programs, as well as system quality projects," including road overlays and bridge replacements.

House Bill 1310 funds helped support projects on Colo. Highway 13 and Colorado Highway 131, which runs south from Steamboat Springs through Yampa.

This year, House Bill 1310 funding "for the most part, has dried up," Allen said, adding that CDOT won't receive any HB 1310 funds this year because of a lag in Colorado's economy.

Next steps

Officials at federal and national levels agree that something in the state's transportation funding has to change.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters has proposed moving away from the gas tax as a major portion of the department's budget.

"Advances in higher-fuel efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels are making the gas tax an even less sustainable support for funding roads, bridges and transit systems," she wrote in a news release.

The state's Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel, appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2007, also has drafted alternative revenue sources, including a 13-cent per gallon motor fuel tax increase and an annual state highway maintenance fee added to vehicle registration costs.

Finally, Amendment 52, which was added to the November ballot last week, could take funds from oil and gas severance taxes and apply them to state transportation projects.

The latter case would place a portion of CDOT's financial future in voters' hands.

"We will be at the mercy of the Legislature and the voting public," Allen said.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

Comments

Ray Cartwright 5 years, 11 months ago

"Gas and diesel tax revenues flow into CDOT's Highway Users Tax Fund, which makes up a majority of the department's budget"

Help me remember if you can; didn't we borrow all the funds here to work on the I-25 project through Denver and also several projects on other Eastern Slope highways a couple of years ago.

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