Chamber endorses RTA

Filed under: Opinion |

Transportation infrastructure has been consistently cited by the citizens of the Pikes Peak region as our top concern on almost every community survey conducted between 1998 and 2004. This concern is real.

Colorado Springs was just awarded the dubious distinction as the “Most Congested City in the United States &” for cities its size. Traffic congestion not only impacts our local businesses, it has also become a significant safety issue for our community. It is estimated that existing and projected transportation capital, maintenance and transit needs over the next 10 years in the Pikes Peak region will be well in excess of $1.3 billion. The needs on the list are all local, and not eligible for substantial state or federal funds.

The good news is that there finally is a regional plan to deal with our transportation infrastructure and all of us will have an opportunity to vote on it in November.

The Pikes Peak Transportation Coalition (PPTC) has brought together several citizens groups, organizations and businesses to prioritize the myriad transportation projects and transit issues that exist in the region. The PPTC meets weekly and has looked at several different options as to how to fund these projects. After lengthy analysis, the PPTC has proposed the formation of a Rural Transportation Authority (RTA).

It may seem to be a misnomer, but it’s called a Rural Transportation Authority due to the fact that everything outside of the Denver Metro Area has been deemed rural by the Colorado State Legislature.

The RTA or Pikes Peak RTA is not a new level of government. It is a model for this region that is long overdue. The PPRTA would be funded by a one-cent sales tax. This tax would generate on an annual basis approximately $60 million. The plan will devote 55 percent of the annual funding to a voter-approved list of prioritized capital projects. Thirty-five percent of the funding would be directed to maintenance projects, and the remaining 10 percent would be used to create a stronger bus transit system in the form of a modified hub and spoke system with greater frequency of service.

The 55 percent for capital projects would sunset after 10 years and address a project list that that has been prioritized after months of meetings of the city’s Citizens’ Transportation Advisory Board and the county’s Highway Advisory Commission. The remaining funding for maintenance and transit would continue in perpetuity.

Three members of our City Council and three members of our Board of County Commissioners would constitute the Board of Directors for the PPRTA. They would receive no additional compensation for this responsibility. Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls have also agreed to participate in this regional entity.

The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and its Board of Directors fully endorses this November ballot issue. Transportation infrastructure is the perennial top concern as cited in the chamber’s annual public policy and legislative survey of its 1,900 member businesses. We are proud that this entire effort started with the Chamber’s Transportation Committee under the leadership of former State Transportation Commissioner Dan Stuart. Dan now co-chairs the PPTC.

The PPRTA is the visionary plan of a broad array of citizens. It is intended to ensure that our infrastructure is befitting our great community. It will address existing and projected congestion and public safety concerns. The fact is that city and county budgets cannot begin to address regional needs of this magnitude. It is a good model that (1) targets the most needed capital projects agreed upon by the city and the county, (2) addresses congestion and public safety concerns and (3) is fiscally responsible by not creating another layer of bureaucracy with the capital projects portion “sun setting” to allow voters the opportunity for review and assessment.

Our community needs to take responsibility for the solution to our own transportation issues. Please join the chamber in supporting a regional solution to our transportation safety and mobility challenges. Vote for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (Issue 1A) in November.

Tom Naughton

chairman, Board of Directors

Will Temby

President and CEO