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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs multiple transit bills into law

Advocates say the new laws provide a 'historic investment' in transit
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Posted at 5:36 PM, May 16, 2024

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed multiple bills into law Thursday aimed at improving the state's transportation system.

Transit advocates say the new laws will also bring the state closer to its goal of passenger rail.

To say Richard Bamber is excited about transit would be an understatement.

“I'm transit nearly every day. I don't personally own a car,” said Bamber, who co-founded Greater Denver Transit, a grassroots advocacy organization of Denver metro residents. “I absolutely prefer to take transit. It allows me to unwind, relax, and sometimes get some work done.”

While Colorado is far from where he says it needs to be – he describes it as a ‘mixed bag’ – he and other transit advocates are excited about the legislation lawmakers passed this year.

“Thankfully, after some incredible actions at the state legislature, and with a signature by the governor, we're going to be able to declare that 2024 is the year of transit,” said Danny Katz, the executive director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG).

Katz and Bamber were among the attendees of a bill-signing ceremony held at the RTD station in Westminster, where Polis signed two air-quality bills into law.

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One of the bills, SB24-230, will provide more funding for transit projects through new fees on oil and gas production. According to the Legislative Council Staff, the fees could generate $175 million a year.

About a third of that would go to a wildlife and land fund. The rest would go to transit projects.

“We know that expanding transit is critical in this effort, and we are about 44th in state funding for transit,” said State Sen. Lisa Cutter, one of the bill sponsors. “So, this is going to go a long way. It will help maximize ridership, reduce vehicle miles traveled and emissions and improve equity of another really, really important factor improve equity in our system.”

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After the bill-signing ceremony in Westminster, the governor hopped on board an RTD train for Denver.

While en route, he signed SB24-032 into law. It will extend the Ozone Season Free Transit Grant Program, which provides free transit rides during ozone season. It also creates a new grant program to provide young Coloradans with free fare year-round.

“That’s why we're excited to sign this bill,” Polis said, noting it was the first time he signed a bill into law on a moving train.

After getting off the train at Union Station in downtown Denver, he signed SB24-184 into law that could move the state closer to its goals of statewide passenger rail.

“This has been elusive for far too long in Colorado,” Polis said.

The new law imposes a $3.00 per day fee on rental cars. The Legislative Council Staff, which analyzed the bill, said the fee could provide the state with about $60 million a year for transit projects.

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Senate President Steve Fenberg, one of the bill’s sponsors, said it also help the state secure federal funding for projects that could someday connect people across the state via rail, including a passenger line extending from Pueblo to Fort Collins.

“To be clear, we still have a long way to go,” Fenberg said. “We have a lot of work to do to get these projects done. But once it's finished, passenger rail will make it faster, safer, and easier to get around our beautiful state.”

For transit advocates, the new funding streams created through the legislation the governor signed on Thursday represent a historic step in the right direction.

“The bills that are being signed today are significant investments in our transit system, and should help us see more trains and more buses coming more frequently, taking you to the places you want to go,” said Katz.

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Map of the proposed Front Range Passenger Rail.


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