PPRTA renewal: Essential for the city’s future

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This fall’s ballot includes an important issue that affects voters every day: the extension of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority capital improvement program.

The PPRTA was initiated in 2004 by business and community leaders to address a critical backlog of transportation projects, after Colorado Springs was named the nation’s most-congested city of its size.

Voters approved a one-cent sales tax, divided into three parts — 55 percent for a specific list of capital improvements, 35 percent for maintenance, and 10 percent for transit — and capped administration at 1 percent of the revenue produced. The capital portion was scheduled to sunset in 10 years; Ballot Issue 5A requests your permission to extend it for an additional 10 years for a new list of up to 150 projects that will benefit the entire community.

The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance encourages you to vote YES.

For the past eight years, the PPRTA has paid for nearly every public transportation project in our region, improving traffic flow and safety and reducing delays. PPRTA has responsibly managed taxpayer dollars and delivered on its commitments to voters. PPRTA has served our community well by completing needed projects, including:

  • Union/Austin Bluffs interchange;
  • Woodmen/Academy interchange;
  • Cimarron Street Bridge;
  • Portions of the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail;
  • Marksheffel Road widening;
  • Vincent Drive extension;
  • Milton Proby Parkway from Academy Boulevard to the airport.

Keeping our infrastructure in good repair doesn’t just save time and lives — it supports a healthy economy.

Companies locate and stay in places where they can move about efficiently, and where the quality of life and community investments allow them to attract and retain employees. PPRTA helps us remain competitive. According to industry estimates, the PPRTA also generates 1,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs each year.

As a region, we compete for our fair share of state and federal tax dollars. PPRTA funds are the local match we need to return this money to our region, and to receive private grants. For instance, the Woodmen/Academy project brought in $65 million in additional federal funds. PPRTA funds also mean we can complete projects years ahead of schedule. Here are a few examples of projects on your ballot that will leverage additional funds:

  • The Woodmen and Union intersection will receive $4.5 million from the Federal Highway Administration;
  • Colorado Department of Transportation will contribute an estimated $3 million to Colorado Avenue/Manitou Avenue improvements;
  • We’ll receive $1.5 million toward upgrading traffic signals to improve timing from the Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program;
  • Trail projects allow us to receive Great Outdoors Colorado and open-space grants.

While the PPRTA has reduced the backlog of infrastructure projects, more work needs to be done. The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments estimates that our region has a $2 billion backlog of transportation infrastructure projects, and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card recently gave our roads a D grade, bridges a D+ and transit system a C-.

The ASCE cautions that without a PPRTA extension, we risk a repeat status as most-congested city of our size, and it’s unclear how we’d fund transportation projects without it.

Projects as listed on your ballot are targeted at important needs throughout the community and include:

  • A continuous-flow intersection at Woodmen Road and Union Boulevard, now the city’s most-congested intersection;
  • Pavement, pedestrian and bridge improvements on Colorado Avenue/Manitou Avenue west of 31st Street;
  • Intersection upgrades and bridge construction at Old Ranch Road and Powers Boulevard;
  • Improvements on Eastonville Road from McLaughlin to Latigo;
  • Fontanero bridge replacement;
  • Cheyenne Cañon Road bridge replacement;
  • Traffic signal upgrades to enable better traffic flow;
  • Trail improvements and connections.

Extending the PPRTA with a yes vote on 5A helps us address these needs and maintain what we have, saving time and money in the long run. Investing in our infrastructure is something we all benefit from and is essential to our vitality, competitiveness and the success of future generations.

Please vote yes on Ballot Issue 5A.

Chris Jenkins is president of Nor’wood Development Group and a board member of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.