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Bill proposes vehicle weight fee to pay for pedestrian safety improvements

Colorado Senator Lisa Cutter (D) said the legislation acknowledges that heavier vehicles are more likely to kill pedestrians. Opponents say it's government overreach.
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Posted at 11:14 AM, Oct 30, 2023

DENVER — Lawmakers have drafted legislation that, if passed, would create a fee depending on how heavy a vehicle is. The money collected would later be granted to local governments for pedestrian safety improvements to the roadways.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), pedestrian deaths have been trending upward for the last decade, and hit a 20-year record high of 111 deaths in 2022.

"Data shows us that heavier vehicles are a part of the problem, and that's agnostic. It's not a judgment on the kind of vehicle you drive. It's just a fact that these vehicles are more often involved in fatalities and serious injuries," said Senator Lisa Cutter (D), a sponsor of the bill.

The legislation passed through the Transportation and Legislative Review Committee as an interim bill.

If passed, the fee would be implemented for vehicle owners in the 12 most populous counties in Colorado.

"We will create a separate enterprise, and the fees will be deposited into this enterprise and then grants will come out of that to local governments," said Cutter. "Cities can apply to do things to make their main streets safer and to provide their high traffic areas more safety for their pedestrians and bicyclists and all the vulnerable road users."

Commercial vehicles will be exempt from the fee, while passenger cars and light trucks would be charged a sliding scale.

The legislation does not require a fee for a vehicle owner if their car weighs under 3,500 lbs. From there, the fee would be:

  • 0.3 cents per pound for each vehicle pound between 3,501 and 4,500 lbs
  • 0.4 cents per pound for each pound between 4,501 and 5,500 lbs, with the fee increasing from there.

At that rate, the owner of a 2024 Subaru Outback, with the maximum curb weight of 3,946 lbs, would see a fee of $11.83 annually. The owner of a 2023 Tesla Model Y, with the maximum curb weight of 4,555 lbs, would see a fee of $18.22.
The fee scale is different for trucks. A 2022 Ford F150 with a maximum curb weight of 5,740 lbs would fall under the fee category of one cent per dollar per pound in the range of 5,500 to 6,500 lbs for a total fee of $57.40.

"Inflation's high, fuel's high, energy costs are high. The last thing you need is the government further in your pocket," said Abraham Aryan, owner of Truck Kings in Denver. He also sits on the Colorado Independent Dealers Association.

Aryan said the fees are a band-aid fix for safety and are government overreach.

"It really has nothing to do with the weight of the vehicles as much as it has to do with road construction and how far Colorado is behind," Aryan said. "It's going to hurt just the regular Colorado citizens like you and I who just drive an SUV because you like to go hiking and you maybe have a midsize dog that you'd like to take places with you. Everybody's gonna pay this."

The bill is expected to be introduced on the floor in early 2024.