Colorado Senate approves bill to shift some money from transit to roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/12/2016

A portion of Colorado’s road safety and vehicle surcharges could soon be rerouted from transit to roads.

The Republican-led Senate voted 18-16 along party lines to advance a bill that would eliminate annual transfers of $15 million for transit projects from fee revenue collected from truckers and other drivers. The bill now moves to the Democrat-led House.

The Colorado Department of Transportation receives about $200 million each year from fee revenue. State transit-related projects receive $10 million of that amount and local transit projects get $5 million.

Sponsored by Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, the bill would redirect the money allotted for transit to roads. Specifically, the amount available for road safety projects each year would be raised by $10 million. Allocations to counties would increase by $2.75 million, and the allotment to municipalities would increase by $2.25 million.

Advocates say most of the state’s taxpayers pay vehicle registration fees believing the money is being used for road improvements. In reality, they say millions are diverted for non-road-related projects.

Neville said the current setup puts the cart before the horse by funding transit work without first addressing needed road work.

“This bill puts the horse back in front of the cart, where it belongs, by insisting that vehicle registration fees be prioritized for use on road improvements,” Neville said in prepared remarks.

Opponents say not everyone who needs to get from one place to another relies on getting behind the wheel. Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, said the state cannot afford to move backward with this bill.

Neville said the bill would not be the death knell for transit in the state. He points out that more than $500 million in federal funding is sent to the state as part of a separate program.

“There’s nothing wrong with transit per se, but funding transit at the expense of basic road maintenance and modernization just doesn’t make sense,” he stated.

The bill, SB11, awaits consideration in the House Transportation and Energy Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado, click here.

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