COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill that offers the biggest boost to transportation funding the state has seen in decades.
Senate Bill 260 is projected to bring in an estimated $5.4 billion in funding over the next decade.
The bill passed in the legislature along party lines, with Republicans voting against it and Democrats voting in favor of it. Gov. Polis signed the bill into law on Thursday, June 17.
At the signing ceremony, which took place on I-70 by Floyd Hill, Gov. Polis said that the bill will create roughly 27,000 jobs over the lifespan of the legislation. He said this will be done through shovel-ready projects and other improvements. He also said it will also contribute to the economy by providing better access to Colorado's mountain areas, he also claimed that the average Coloradan loses over $600 a year being stuck in traffic.
Sponsors of the bill have said the package helps push one of Colorado’s top needs to the front of the queue of state priorities and to continue to work toward a future with primarily electric vehicles and more and different modes of transportation to cut down on carbon emissions as the state population continues to grow rapidly.
In order to achieve this, new fees will begin to kick in starting July 2022:
On the other hand, FASTER fees on vehicle registrations will be decreased over the next two years to help people recover from the pandemic. The fees will drop by $11.10 next year and $5.50 in 2023 before returning to their current rate in January 2024.
Voters have repeatedly rejected ballot questions that would have put money in state coffers to fix roads in recent years – including in 2018, where a measure to borrow money to finance more than $3 billion in highway projects was rejected, as was a measure that would have raised the state sales tax to fund transportation projects.
The fees will help fund several new state enterprises created in the bill including the bridge and tunnel enterprise, community access enterprise, clean fleet enterprise, clean transit enterprise, and air pollution enterprise. However, according to the fiscal note, these enterprises will not require voter approval, which is required under Proposition 117. This is because the fiscal note assumes that the enterprises will not generate revenue exceeding $100 million during their first 5 years, so therefore they're exempt.
So what are some other changes we might see coming our way? We break them down for you here:
Rideshare industry impact:
"I understood why they did it, but I feel like it's really going to hurt the rideshare community," said Ryan Breakey, Owner of the Rideshare Co.
He's been driving Uber and Lyft for five years and says the proposed fees will have a huge impact on the rideshare industry.
"It'll be five years for me in June so I've seen the ups and downs of driving for Uber and Lyft. I'm the type of person that's willing to ride the wave. For full-time drivers, when gas goes up and different stuff like this, they are the ones affected more than the ones that do it part-time," said Breakey.
With rideshare services seeing a 30-cent-per-trip fee and 15-cent-per-trip for carpools and electric vehicles, he's worried about how that will impact riders.
"Most customers won't mind, but there are a lot of customers that use Uber and Lyft to get around to point a and b," said Breakey. "Some people feel taking Uber or Lyft is cheaper than owning a car and paying those payments."
Breakey says the proposed fees, which include a 2 cent per gallon on gasoline and diesel fee, may impact the number of drivers on the road.
"If gasoline continues to go up, it's only going to hurt the driver shortage than help it. Right now we are seeing a lot of drivers get back on the road and a lot of new drivers signing up. If gas goes up, soon these drivers who did continue to drive through the pandemic is going to say this isn't worth it," said Breakey.
Looking toward the future and environmental efforts:
One of the biggest items the bill centers around is electric vehicles, and the push to utilize them and provide the necessary infrastructure for them.
One study by Deloitte Insights predicts that electric vehicles will make up about a third of new car sales within the next ten years.
The bill creates several new state enterprises to help make a push toward electric vehicles and environmental efforts.
For example, the Community Access Enterprise, which will be created under the Colorado Energy Office, to help support the adoption of electric vehicles, develop electric vehicle charging stations, etc. This enterprise will be funded through a community access retail fee.
In the bill's fiscal note it states that the increased price on gasoline and diesel fuel purchases is designed to "modestly decrease gasoline and fuel consumption," which is expected to result in an annual decrease of $10,000 in revenue from the fuel taxes under the bill.
40 percent of the electric vehicle registration fees will go to the Electric Vehicle Grant Fund.
The bill also creates a new branch in CDOT called the Environmental Justice and Equity Branch. The role of the branch will be to work with disproportionately impacted communities and will identify issues that prevent these communities that affect their health, quality of life, etc.
Under the bill, there is also another enterprise created within CDOT called the Nonattainment Area Air Pollution Mitigation Enterprise. The role laid out for this branch is to mitigate transportation-related pollution. To do this the enterprise will fund projects that will help reduce traffic or air pollution. The bill also allows it to create an "air pollution mitigation fee on retail deliveries."
Improving our current infrastructure:
Of the new enterprises created the Bridge and Tunnel enterprise is projected to get the most revenue under this bill, with over $50 million by 2024.
Revenue made from the fees on gasoline and diesel fuel and retail fees will go toward the Statewide Bridge and Tunnel Enterprise Fund.
According to one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Alec Garnett, $800 million will go toward fixing rural roads.
"We should not be 47th in the country when it comes to the safety of our rural roads," said (D) State Rep. Alec Garnett, who is also one of the bill's sponsors.
He also said there are $2.5 billion dollars going to the Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF), local governments get a big portion of those dollars to go to the needs of their communities.
There's also a significant amount of funding going toward Main Street projects. At least $22 million dollars from the State Highway Fund will go toward CDOT's Revitalizing Main Streets Program. According to the state's website, the purpose of the program is to help communities implement transportation-related projects that improve safety and help provide long-term benefits to main streets in various communities. Pueblo, Fountain, Manitou Springs, and Colorado Springs have received funds from this program in the past.
One project that is supposed to get immediate attention will be I-70 by Floyd Hill. During the signing ceremony on Thursday, Gov. Polis pointed out it's often an area of traffic congestion on I-70. He said the last time the stretch of road received major investment was in the 1960s.
"A lot has changed, and with the passage of this transportation bill a new lane, both ways for this entire seven-mile stretch," said Gov. Polis.