State highway director Shoshana Lew paints the fullest picture to date about the outlines of the 10-year priorities of her boss, Gov. Jared Polis, this week in a podcast with former state Sen. Mike Kopp, president and CEO of the Colorado Concern business group.
The plan, expected to be out in a document in the next few weeks, lays out what the Colorado Department of Transportation would build if it could sustain an extra $500 million a year above its base budget.
So far, however, CDOT only has approval from the state transportation commission to plan for the first four years. That money is courtesy of legislation during the Hickenlooper administration, mainly the windfall from Senate Bill 267 that reclassified a state hospital provider fee in 2017 to free up about $1.8 billion for transportation.
Lew told Kopp that an extra $500 million a year "is enough money to make a big difference, but not enough money to do everything."
It will be enough, however, to make the largest investment in rural roads in the state's history, 25% of the Senate Bill 267 money, or about $330 million a year.
That money will go a long way on rural routes scattered across the state, some that haven't seen upgrades since the 1970s, Lew said. CDOT could have spent all the money on one large rural interstate project, but the administration opted to put the money into as many rural communities as it can, she explained.
The rest will go to interstates, including those spanning rural Colorado, and urban projects that Lew called the state's traffic chokepoints.
She told Kopp that about 40% of the first-year money would go to Interstate 25, the spine of the Front Range, where about 85% of the state's population resides.
Finding the money to sustain that level of funding after four years will be the job of future legislatures, despite that past legislatures have repeatedly failed in partisan gridlock at the Capitol.
"I think about groups like Colorado Concern that really would like to see tangible and helpful steps taken as a state for resolving these transportation matters," Kopp said. "What's the business case for lost time in traffic? There's not a business case for that. Obviously, the case is the opposite."
Listen to the full podcast by clicking here.