While the majority of states are clawing to make ends meet in their transportation budgets as they cope with dwindling revenues, a different outlook is found in Colorado.
Gov. Bill Ritter is pursuing an increase in funding for transportation in next year’s state budget proposal. He is asking state lawmakers for $1.03 billion for roads and bridges, a 6 percent boost from this year’s budget.
Ritter says the new money is compliments of additional fees, fines and surcharges, such as vehicle registration fees and rental vehicle surcharges. The increases are being phased in over three years. The fees for commercial trucks will increase to $71 by 2012.
According to the governor’s office, the new revenue amounts to nearly $161 million for road and bridge repair and safety work in the coming year. When the funding was approved by the General Assembly in February, lawmakers were told it would generate $252 million annually over four years to upgrade the 125 most structurally deficient bridges in the state.
Dubbed the Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery, or FASTER, the new fee program is credited as being a key factor in allowing the Colorado Department of Transportation to expand its budget.
“Thanks to FASTER, we’re going to stop the rapid deterioration of our transportation system and create a framework that leads to a modern transportation system,” Ritter said in a statement. “This is first and foremost about public safety – about moving Colorado forward and ensuring our bridges and roads are safe for the people who live, work and travel in Colorado.”
The first transportation projects to benefit from the FASTER-generated funds are expected to get under way in the spring.
Ritter has submitted his transportation budget proposal to the Joint Budget Committee. It can be considered by the House and Senate during the regular session that begins in early January.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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