Highways strained, future uncertain

— Colorado's highway infrastructure cannot keep up maintenance and construction demands with its current funding, said Russell George, Colorado Department of Transportation executive director.

George spoke Friday at the Fueling Thought Energy Summit 2008 at the Holiday Inn of Craig.

CDOT's 2035 Statewide Transportation Plan - which is derived through interviews with local businesses and governments to assess their needs - is unattainable with current revenues, George said.

Inflation has outpaced CDOT's current funding mechanisms at the same time there are more drivers on Colorado highways, driving more miles on average, than ever before, George said.

The 22 cents per gallon state fuel tax has not changed since 1992, and the federal 18 cents per gallon tax has not changed since 1993.

Gov. Bill Ritter's Colorado Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel released a report in January saying the state would roughly need an additional $1.5 billion to meet the needs described by residents across the state.

"We need to ask ourselves as citizens of this state, what is it we want from out of our transportation system?" George said.

"There is not enough money to do this," he added, holding up CDOT's 2035 plans. "In fact, there is not enough money in our future or present to maintain what we have. For me to maintain what we have in the state today, in the condition it's in today, it will cost everything I have (in the CDOT budget) plus another $500,000."

There are no unreserved funds each year to pay for projects that come up, such as Rio Blanco County Road 5 or Colorado Highway 13, George said.

He rhetorically asked the crowd of energy industry officials and state politicians if they thought the current state of affairs would suffice.

"Are we willing to pay more of our resources to have more in our transportation infrastructure?"

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