Friday, October 22, 2010

Colorado gubernatorial candidates focus on transportation issues

In about 10 days, Colorado voters will cast their ballots on some significant issues and races. In addition to questions on the statewide ballot that address transportation funding, voters will elect a new governor. The three leading candidates vying to fill the seat being vacated by Gov. Bill Ritter have addressed transportation issues.

The candidates are Democratic Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Republican nominee Dan Maes, and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo.

One of the most substantive transportation discussions during the governor’s race has focused on congestion caused by skier traffic between Denver and mountain resorts along I-70. Much ado has been made about the entanglement of weekend vacationers and large trucks on high-country highways.

Hickenlooper told the Colorado Independent that the weekend skier rush is “what makes Colorado Colorado. That’s what makes us different.” He recommended that CDOT ban westbound trucks on Friday afternoons and eastbound trucks on Sunday afternoons.

The mayor has done a dandy job of playing up to the desires of many voters he is courting, but he’s shown quite a bit of shortsightedness in dismissing the greater good of the state, the region and the nation.

Hickenlooper’s idea could have various economic impacts. On-time deliveries would be affected not only locally but regionally and nationally. Truckers and the businesses they serve would also be burdened with additional costs.

Obviously something needs to be done about the traffic dilemmas in the area but delaying commerce doesn’t appear to be a bright idea.

Another topic that candidates have addressed is the FASTER legislation approved during the 2009 session. The transportation spending bill includes the option of charging tolls to access existing free routes and new transit-funding initiatives. It also green-lighted the raising of funds through an increase in vehicle registration fees.

On his website, Maes says there was no need to approve FASTER because federal bailout funds coming into the state “are more than enough” to immediately address about half of the road and bridge needs.

“If government downsized, and kept the spending limit in place the transportation industry would have the revenue it needs to conduct its business. Now we see the state spending so-called stimulus money for roads and bridge repair on bike paths!” Maes wrote.

Hickenlooper refers to the FASTER legislation as “pioneering.” On his website, he says it has allowed “many of Colorado’s immediate needs, such as repairs and replacements of structurally deficient bridges and roads” to be addressed.

Tancredo has made a point of emphasizing that Colorado needs to change its status as a “donor” state. His website shows that the state gets less than $1 back on every dollar sent to Washington, while others get as much as $1.50 or $2 on every dollar contributed.

“I believe that Congress should work to address this inequity in the multi-year surface transportation bill scheduled for action this year,” Tancredo wrote. “This will help guarantee more funds for Colorado highway projects without raising the federal gas tax.”

He also wrote that fuel taxes shouldn’t be diverted for other purposes.

“Excise taxes and special fees collected by the federal government ought to be spent to benefit those who pay the tax. That means taxes on gasoline should be utilized to build highways.”

It’s good to hear talk from candidates about greater responsibility with revenue already available to government. Voters are not interested in seeing their taxes and fees raised every time government is in a pinch. Elected officials need to prove they can better manage what is already coming into coffers.