NewsState of Growth


CDOT wants Powers to become a freeway, but this funding roadblock makes that pretty difficult

The state's gas tax revenue, which funds roads, continues to lose value
CDOT wants Powers to become a freeway, but this funding roadblock makes that pretty difficult
Posted at 4:25 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 21:17:06-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs continues to be a top moving destination, and with more people here, our roads are becoming more and more crowded. But just as fast as people seem to be moving here, CDOT's funds to expand those roads seem to be shrinking.

There may be no better example than Powers Boulevard--spanning the entire east side of the city.

We’ve all experienced it.

“Ugh! It’s just so difficult at times.” motorist Kris Fletcher said.

That headache you get when driving on Powers Boulevard.

“It’s all pretty bad,” motorist William Bryant said.

Heading south from Interquest, it’s smooth sailing. Until…

“It’s like… You’re going, going, going. Then there’s another stoplight,” Fletcher said.

From Research Parkway south, this highway is littered with traffic lights.

“You’re donezo,” Fletcher said. “If you’re on lunch break you might want to call your boss.”

Make no mistake, Powers is a highway -- Colorado Highway 21 to be exact. The lowest speed limit sign you’ll see is 55. CDOT even installed signs that light up, warning drivers to “be prepared to stop” just before a traffic lights turns yellow.

“I’d love to see something done about it,” Bryant said.

With the area only continuing to grow, CDOT knows this design isn’t going to cut it forever.

“Making powers, kind of what we call a freeway, is the ultimate plan,” CDOT spokesperson Michelle Peulen said.

That would mean ditching those traffic lights, and replacing them with grade separated interchanges so traffic on Powers can pass right by with ease.

That would cost some money. But from where?

“The current gas tax here is 22 cents per gallon," CDOT executive Director Shoshana Lew said.

She says that 22 cents per gallon of gas is where CDOT gets the bulk of its funding for road projects.

“It has been that way since about 1991,” Lew said.

And that’s the issue.

Inflation means that 22 cents for every gallon purchased in the state is worth about half as much as when the tax was implemented 30 years ago.

Take that a step further. Logic would suggest that tax revenue would only be able to fund about half as much roadway as it did in 1991, since it’s worth half as much.

But there’s more. People drive much more fuel efficient cars today. They buy a lot less gas than they did in 1991.

Again, that means CDOT is out more funding.

“We’re not unique in having this challenge,” Lew said. “This is a sort of endemic problem that exists in many other states.”

And as electric cars become more popular on our roadways, gas could eventually come obsolete.

“It’s a good problem to have, that having more fuel efficient cars degrades the revenue source, but it does create a problem that we’re gonna have to deal with,” Lew said.

A total fix hasn't been found yet.

And for projects like Powers, CDOT can only fund the transformation little by little.

“Obviously we have to take that in small chunks,” Peulen said. “Unless we get some sort of huge funding stimulus.”

Projects on two of those chunks are already underway.

News 5 reported earlier this month stimulus funds meant CDOT can go ahead and get started on converting the intersection at Powers and Research to a grade-separated interchange. Work begins on that this summer.

Meanwhile, work on the new powers and i-25 interchange will wrap up sometime this summer.

As for when the rest of the chunks could be taken care of… time will have to tell.