• Republican Senate candidates advocate new ways to increase funding for Colorado roads – Denver Business Journal

    As Colorado legislators debated multiple proposals earlier this year to increase road funding — and failed to pass any of them — a theme underlying the conversations was that state action was needed because solutions to add funding were not coming from the federal government.

    So, when asked what exactly the federal government can do to aid Colorado’s congested transportation system, the five Republicans seeking to be the state’s next U.S. senator all have some ideas about ways to increase that pot of money — or at least ways to shake up the agency that oversees it.

    Colorado roads

    The quintet of candidates seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the November general election — businessman Robert Blaha, former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham and former state Rep. Jon Keyser — agree that they have no interest in raising the federal gas tax for the first time since 1993. But from there, their transportation ideas diverge like off-ramps from an interstate.

    Blaha and Keyser both said they want to examine restructuring the U.S. Department of Transportation in order to put more of the money it collects to actual construction.

    Keyser said the bureaucracy of 50,000 employees needs to be pared down, and Congress needs to look into why many have seen sharp pay increases since the Great Recession.

    Blaha, meanwhile, said the government should have limited involvement in funding roads other than those in the federal corridor.

    An entrepreneur who specializes in dismantling major organizations, he said he’s like to like to re-evaluate the processes that directly impact the national highway system on a bill-by-bill basis.

    “I’d like to do a business analysis just like we would with many other businesses, evaluating what the opportunities are and going out on a case-by-case basis and evaluating options,” Blaha said. “I think we need much more scrutiny of the system.”

    Glenn said he shares the belief that the federal government should fund only federal corridors rather than dictating which local projects should get money from the U.S. Department of Transportation. He would like the government to calculate the cost of maintaining its corridors and then return the rest of the revenue from the gas tax to the states.
    With gas-tax revenues declining nationally because of the increase in fuel-efficient and electric vehicles, both Graham and Keyser said they’d be willing to look at some sort of user fee to supplement or supplant the tax.

    Graham said broadly that he would be willing to talk about alternative ways of funding highways, though he said he would want to be sure that citizens understand the consequences of moving to a new system before any action is taken.

    And Keyser said specifically that he would be willing to look at a vehicle-miles-traveled-fee system that several states, including Colorado, are experimenting with, but only after ensuring the government is maximizing its current resources.

    Glenn said he would consider using increased tax revenue from companies that move factories from overseas back to the U.S. as a dedicated source of transportation funding.

    Meanwhile, Frazier has proposed expanding access of energy-production companies to public lands and dedicating new royalty revenues to transportation.

    “When I think about where are the opportunities to identify resources that are being generated here in Colorado and to use them for the most good, this makes the most sense,” Frazier said. “I believe this is something that could be sustainable for well past a decade.”

    Graham was the one candidate who specifically stated that more of the gas-tax revenues should be directed toward roadway construction rather than toward mass transit, even as some advocates call for increased federal investment in buses, rails and bike trails.

    “That’s not what the 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax was intended to be used for,” he said. “So, let’s use that money for its real purpose.”

    This is part of a five-part series the Denver Business Journal is running this week on business issues in the Republican U.S. Senate contest.


    Posted by Dana West @ 9:25 am for Adams County Politics, Candidates, Colorado politics, Denver area politics, Issues, National politics, Transportation |

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