The dreaded "T" Word

Filed under: Opinion |

Transportation, transportation, transportation. At least the “T” reference isn’t TABOR this time around. It seems that at every event or luncheon that I have attended recently, transportation was discussed.

Living in Monument I am more than aware of the importance of this issue. The Woodmen interchange is supposedly complete & and yet it is still a bottleneck and should have been designed with growth in mind. Why can’t people and planners think out more than a couple of years?

A simple question, but I’m afraid there haven’t been any good answers.

Most of you have probably heard the rather startling facts about our infrastructure from Dan Stuart, Lorne Kramer and the C-dot folks so I won’t bore you with them again. Suffice to say though, that something needs to be done & and soon. Forming a Rural Transit Authority would be a good first step. Don’t let the name throw you, the state labels anything outside the Denver Metro area as rural.

The Pikes Peak Transportation Coalition is working toward the goal of better local transportation for folks living on the Front Range. The state pays for state projects and highways and the federal government pays for work on interstates.

The coalition has outlined what it believes are the first steps to getting us back on the right road. (By the way, I happen to fully agree with and support the following ideas.)

1. Request that the city and county citizen transportation advisory committees jointly identify and present a list of the highest priority transportation projects needed to seriously address our traffic problems. The city’s Citizens Transportation Advisory Board and the county’s Highway Advisory Commission have 15 projects identified as group A – high priority.

2. Investigate a fair and equitable source of revenue to be used to fix the growing problem.

3. Support accountability on spending the transportation dollars through an independent audit and citizen review committee

4. Launch a public education effort linking identified problems with real solutions.

So why are we in this transportation predicament?

A half-cent sales tax that paid for necessary work was not renewed by voters in 1992. It’s too late now to worry about why residents at that time felt a few extra cents in their pockets was more important than adequate transportation. But good roads and good traffic flow shouldn’t be a difficult issue to sell to the voters, especially since El Paso County is the least taxed per capita of the 10 Front Range counties.

If you need more convincing, consider that Colorado Springs property tax revenue per capita fell by half between 1990 and 2004, from $70 to $34. And then throw into the mix that sales tax in the Springs is the lowest per capita when compared to Aurora, Thornton, Denver, Arvada, Westminster, Boulder, Pueblo, Fort Collins and Lakewood.

The cost per family to fund the RTA is 42 cents a day. I’m willing to pay that. Those folks who aren’t need to give some thoughtful consideration to what type of transportation they want in the future. Current funding levels are projected to only cover about 10 percent of currently identified needs during the next 10 years. Growth isn’t suddenly going to stop, and motor vehicles aren’t suddenly going to disappear from the landscape, so a little foresight now could go a long way down the road.

EDC Caribbean Gala at the Broadmoor

You have to give the Economic Development Corp. credit for not planning another black-tie, buttoned-up event. The group’s annual gala last Saturday pegged the right theme for the right season.

Of course, this being my first Caribbean Gala in the Springs, I deferred to a member of my staff when it came to the dress code. I was assured that wearing shorts to the event was not only acceptable, but encouraged. (Note to self: Don’t blanketly trust staff when it comes to fashion etiquette decisions). Having spent several years in the Caribbean as a boat captain, and rarely wearing long pants during that time, it made sense to me.

I realized that there might be a problem while some of the CSBJ staff and I were partaking of pre-event refreshments at a local watering hole and some other gala-goers arrived wearing what can only be described as pants. Of course at this point, I was again assured not to worry. (Another note to self: Staff members are much more likely to engage in prevarication when enjoying pre-event refreshments.)

Upon arriving at the Broadmoor, our three-some was not the only shorts-wearing group, but we were definitely in the minority. Of course, being a transplant, I haven’t quite gotten used to Colorado business-attire acceptable, so on a daily basis I’m usually way overdressed. Not that I’m sure this evens things out, or that I even wanted to try to.

Aside from the fashion faux pas, the event was great fun and I commend the EDC for being different. And as far as I’m concerned, the tux can stay in the closet as long as possible.

Publisher Lon Matejczyk can be reached at 634-3223, ext. 202 or Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com.