ROADS/BRIDGES: Colorado DOT facing $9 billion in needs vs. $1.41 billion budget

The agency has identifed priority need far in excess of its ability to address them

December 02, 2016
Colorado DOT
Colorado DOT

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has identified $9 billion worth of unfunded priority project, including the widening of I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock, but is faced with a $1.41 billion budget for 2017, a budget which is at present over-burdened with maintenance requests.

CDOT made its case to a bipartisan Joint Budget Committee late last week, but no new solutions were generated from that meeting, according to officials.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) said polling shows a gas tax would meet with extensive disapproval from the public.

“If we're going to move transportation forward in this state, we're going to have to come up with some creative ideas to make this happen,” Baumgardner said. “There have been creative ideas in the past that have not fared well.”

Republicans tilt toward borrowing $3.5 billion to pay for a list of high-need projects. Democrats oppose it, saying the money to repay those bonds would come from the highway maintenance fund, which can't afford it. To balance the state’s overall budget, Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed cutting the state General Fund's contribution to transportation by 41% over the next two years, about $79.5 million per year.

Maria Sobota, CDOT's chief financial officer, said about half of the state highway department's budget comes from state and federal gas taxes. The state tax contributes about 23%. Vehicle registrations account for about 8%, and fees and fines account for about 8%.

The state has not raised its gas tax since 1991.

CDOT executive director Shailen Bhatt said the governor's budget request would allow CDOT's I-25 widening project north of Denver to continue and keep federal highway matching grants.

With the proposed $1.41 billion budget, CDOT must maintain about 3,500 bridges and 23,000 lane miles, as well as plow 6.1 million miles per year, including 35 mountain passes, along with a division of transit and rail