Colorado Ski Traffic

In this Jan. 7, 2018, file photo, traffic backs up on Interstate 70 near Silverthorne, a familiar scene on the main highway connecting Denver to the mountains. Heavy ski traffic along the interstate has been common for years, but Colorado's recent population boom is making it increasingly challenging for transportation officials who deal with a bare-bones budget.

A bill seeking to delay by a year asking voters to approve $2.3 billion in transportation bonding won final approval from the Colorado Senate on Wednesday.

With two days left in the session, it's now on its way to the House.

Senate Bill 263 addresses legislation passed in the last two years, starting with the omnibus bill on rural Colorado from 2017 and continuing to the major transportation bill of 2018.

Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 17-267 allowed the state to use state buildings as collateral to raise money for transportation and capital construction projects.

The first round of those certifications of participation (COP), akin to bonds, was issued in 2018. A second round of those COPs was to be issued this year.

Last year, the General Assembly's major transportation bill, Senate Bill 18-001, included language regarding the upcoming general election and what would happen if the two competing ballot measures passed or failed.

Both failed, which meant a ballot measure from SB1 would appear in this November's general election ballot.

But with two ballot measures headed to the November election regarding a TABOR time-out  House Bill 1257 and House Bill 1258  lawmakers are afraid that voters will say no to all of them, according to bill sponsor Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada.

Senate Bill 263 will postpone the ballot measure tied to the 2018 legislation until the 2020 general election.

"I'm not a fan" of delaying this a year, said Republican Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs. He wants the ballot measure to pass so that money for certain projects will be available.

Transportation funding is still the No. 1 issue for his constituents, he said. While he applauds the bipartisan work, both last year and this, he will not vote for the bill because he believes the measure should go to the ballot this year.

"This keeps the bipartisan agreement" reached last year alive, said bill co-sponsor Republican Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale.

Republican Sen. John Cooke of Greeley, one of the sponsors of the 2018 measure, pointed out that funding will keep money flowing into the I-25 North project that runs through his district. A vote in favor is keeping the word to bond for $2 billion in projects and to find a statewide solution to the transportation problem, he added.

"At the end of the day, I want to make progress on transportation," he said.

But if the SB1 ballot measure goes forward this November, what happened last fall, with two competing ballot measures on transportation, will happen again, Zenzinger warned. 

"I want to do this in a way in which we aren't doomed to failure," she said.

The vote to approve was 32-3. Senate Bill 263 now heads to the House.

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