This is the time each year that we reflect on the past year and plan for the next. From my perspective 2004 has been a good year for our community. And as we look to the future, there is plenty to be optimistic about.
n The economy is rebounding-Council completed their 2005 budget without having to cut any services. In fact, we were able to reinstate a few programs that were cut in 2004;
n Economic development activity has increased. The EDC recently announced that 2,038 new primary jobs will be created in Colorado Springs over the next few years, and existing local employers plan to add over 800 additional new jobs;
n We continue to have enviable crime rates and outstanding public safety;
n Our transportation system is about to see some long-needed improvements.
Citizens will start to see improvements to our transportation system as early as April of this year. Thanks to the support of voters, we’ll soon be attacking the $825 million transportation backlog.
In a City update speech to the EDC last summer, I challenged many of you to consider the TRUE costs of an $825 million backlog. You as business people know that the number itself does not represent the full economic impact. It can be measured by how many times you wait to get through a light or by how much money you spend on front-end alignments or new tires each year. It can be measured by how many times you were late due to traffic or by how many police and fire vehicles were delayed in traffic getting to a scene. And as economically-minded individuals, you know there are a variety of other ways we can measure the impact.
n Can customers get to your business?
n Can your business get what it needs delivered when it needs it?
n Are new companies interested in relocating to the nation’s No. 1 midsize city for traffic congestion?
Well, now you can optimistically answer these questions.
The support for local transportation needs through a 1-percent sales tax dedicated fully to regional transportation will eventually transform our City. The tax will be administered by the voter-approved PPRTA, or Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, made up of the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls.
The 1-percent sales tax will be applied to three categories of need:
n 55 percent goes to capital improvements. These projects were listed on the ballot.
n 35 percent will be dedicated to maintenance for street overlay and safety improvements.
n And finally, 10 percent of the 1-percent sales tax will improve transit service.
We will finally build the grade-separated interchange at Austin Bluffs and Union. Thanks to the voters, Baptist Road and Woodmen Road will be widened. Thanks to the voters, Cimarron Street Bridge will be replaced. Thanks to the voters, $7 million in transportation safety improvements will be made citywide. We will have brighter, more efficient traffic signals and long-life pavement markings. Thanks to the voters, we can reconstruct intersections and improve school and pedestrian crossings citywide. Thanks to the voters, we will have better access to our airport. And thanks to the voters, we will have fewer potholes in our neighborhood streets and main thoroughfares. These are just a few of the dozens of projects voters approved when they passed the PPRTA.
The one-percent tax increase took effect January 1, 2005. The state will collect the tax and funding is expected to transfer from the state to the PPRTA by early April. At that point, the PPRTA Board will administer the funds to complete the projects listed on the ballot. While the PPRTA Board still needs to determine logistics, we hope to see lots of lots of local businesses bidding for these jobs.
Appointments to the PPRTA Board are as follows:
City of Colorado Springs
Mayor Lionel Rivera
Councilmen Jerry Heimlicher
Councilmen Larry Small
El Paso County
Commissioner Jim Bensberg
Commissioner Chuck Brown*
Commissioner Wayne Williams
Green Mountain Falls and Manitou Springs
Mayor Marcy Morrison of Manitou Springs
Mayor Tyler Stevens of Green Mountain
*Chuck Brown will serve until he retires and the newly-elected Commission selects a new representative to the Board.
Ballot language also called for a citizen oversight committee. The PPRTA Board will discuss the role and composition of that citizen committee in the coming weeks. We will be sure to keep you updated on their progress and let you know what projects are first on the list.
If you’d like more information on the PPRTA, please visit www.springsgov.com and click on Transportation Education.
Lorne Kramer is the city manager for the City of Colorado Springs. You can contact him at 385-5455.