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On Friday morning, the Colorado House aaproved the CoPIRG-backed HB17-1242, a bi-partisan bill that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including at least $100 million in multi-modal options that can provide safe routes to schools, better access to jobs and critical medical services, and more affordable and efficient choices to deal with congestion. The bill passed on a 41-24 vote.
“This is a good, 21st century transportation bill. It will boost the money Colorado has to maintain our roads and fix our bridges but it also provides basic investments into critical mobility infrastructure and services that will increase the safety, efficiency and accessibility of our transportation system,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Director.
“If enacted, Colorado will be able to offer better vans and shuttles that can connect rural residents to medical services; fill gaps in our sidewalk system; create safe routes to schools; provide safer biking options in urban cities and along rural roads; support regional bus connections that move people along congested major arteries like I-25 and I-70; help ski towns address high costs and crowded downtowns with buses that move employees and tourists instead of giant parking garages that are expensive and unsightly; and help large metro areas invest in better, more affordable local bus services and expand express routes that more efficiently connect communities,” said Katz.
CoPIRG applauds the House sponsors of the bill, Representative Diane Mitsch Bush and Speaker of the Assembly Crisanta Duran, for championing the bill and steering it through the House.
If passed by the Colorado General Assembly and signed by the Governor, the bill would place a .62% sales tax increase on the November 2017 ballot for approval by Colorado voters.
In addition to increasing the sales tax rate, HB17-1242 would lower vehicle registration fees. The net revenue, approximately $600 million would be split. Approximately $375 million would be used by the Colorado Department of Transportation for statewide road and multi-modal projects. The remaining money would be divided 70/30 between local governments and a new multi-modal fund that would invest in walking, biking and transit.
Besides CoPIRG, HB17-1242 has been endorsed by Bicycle Colorado, LiveWell Colorado, AARP Colorado, the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, Mile High Connects, WalkDenver, Healthier Colorado, Conservation Colorado, Transit Alliance, Colorado Association of Transit Agencies, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Environment Colorado, the American Planning Association, the Colorado Interfaith Alliance, the CO AFL-CIO, the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Professionals, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Community Enterprise Partners, and the Colorado Fiscal Institute. In addition, the bill has support from numerous local groups, local government officials and business groups.
“It is clear, when you look at all the groups that support this bill, HB17-1242 will have a positive impact on many Coloradans lives by increasing transportation options that improve the safety, affordability, and accessibility of our transportation system. In turn, this will improve the personal and economic health of our communities and the state,” said Katz.
A recent report by the CoPIRG Foundation and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) highlighted that Colorado needs to spend $1.05 billion a year over the next 25 years on transit, walking and biking across the state. The report highlighted Colorado has 6,000 miles of missing sidewalks in urban areas and large gaps in our biking infrastructure in urban and rural areas. It also identified the need for better bus services in cities, better regional bus service connections and the need to invest in rural mobility options that can connect the growing aging population in rural Colorado with critical medical and other necessary services.
A big reason for these large needs is that Colorado has spent little state money on transit, walking and biking. According to a recent SWEEP white paper, Colorado’s investment in transit is one twentieth the national average. Many local governments have attempted to fill the void but huge needs exist in every community across Colorado.
“This bill is not perfect and will not fully make up for decades of underfunding. But it takes a big step in the right direction by investing in some of the basic multi-modal infrastructure and services that Colorado has neglected for years,” said Katz.
The CoPIRG Foundation and SWEEP report found investing in mobility infrastructure and services like sidewalks, biking and buses will have big benefits for Colorado. For example, it increases accessibility especially for the nearly 10% of Coloradans of driving age who do not have a driver’s license and the thousands of rural residents who are over the age of 75, whose numbers are set to nearly double in the next 25 years. It provides safe routes to schools for kids and families. It helps local economies by creating new options to access employment and reducing parking pressures in popular downtown districts. It can increase overall safety by improving intersections in urban areas and widening shoulders on rural roads, which are frequently used by bicyclists. It reduces pollution and provides active transportation options that help communities stay healthy.
“HB17-1242 provides the basic investments in Colorado’s multi-modal system that will help move Coloradans more safely and more efficiently in the future,” said Katz.
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