With 2021 now half over, there already have been significant and historical funding opportunities for the transportation sector this year.
At both federal and state levels, bills have been passed regarding funding and climate change policies that will affect and improve transportation in metro Denver’s northwest region.
Commuting Solutions, a group dedicated to innovative transportation options in the northwest region, is indebted to our congressional members, state legislators and Gov. Jared Polis, who have boldly advocated for climate change and multimodal transportation over these last few months. We are supportive of state bills that will help residents get from point A to point B, while also addressing climate change goals.
Senate Bill 238, which recently passed the state legislature and which Gov. Polis signed Wednesday, will create a Front Range Passenger Rail District for planning, designing, developing, financing, constructing, operating and maintaining a passenger rail system, as well as specifying the territory, governing structure, powers and duties of the district.
The district is specifically required to work collaboratively with the Regional Transportation District to ensure interconnectivity with any passenger rail system operated by or for the RTD and with Amtrak.
One of the possible alignments for Front Range Passenger Rail is the proposed Northwest Rail route from Denver to Boulder County. Commuting Solutions supports innovative ideas like this to improve mobility in our region.
The bill also allows Colorado to send a strong signal to Amtrak and the federal government that we are a potential funding partner in expanding passenger rail service.
Another state legislative measure, House Bill 1186, will allow RTD to have greater flexibility to lower fares and take advantage of new revenue sources. The bill also removes the requirement for RTD to cover 30% of operating costs through fare revenue. And it allows the transit agency to reduce fares to boost ridership; develop district properties for retail, commercial or residential purposes;and contract with nonprofits and local governments to help lower operating costs.
The bill will enable RTD to operate more efficiently and effectively. Additionally, it will expand transit-oriented development and nonprofit partnerships with local transit service providers like Via Mobility Services.
Lastly, Gov. Jared Polis has signed Senate Bill 260, a $5.3 billion transportation bill to fix roads and bridges, improve transit options, meet the state’s climate goals and improve the state’s transportation system.
This bill will drive Colorado’s economic comeback, establish a sustainable funding source to improve roads, invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and expand multimodal and transit options to reduce congestion and improve air quality.
Over the course of the 11-year plan set forth by the bill, nearly $2.8 billion will be generated through new fee revenue and the bill will leverage nearly $1.5 billion in state general fund revenue and stimulus dollars. Significant funding will be provided to local governments in the northwest region as part of the Highway Users Tax Fund, enabling them to expand local and regional transportation projects and services.
Important regional corridors which connect our communities, such as Colorado highways 119 and 7 and U.S. 287, will also receive funding as part of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s 10-year project list. This is a major step in the right direction for climate and multimodal transportation!
Commuting Solutions stands ready to address the regional mobility and commuting needs of businesses and our communities through continued collaboration and partnerships to implement these transformative opportunities.
Audrey DeBarros is the executive director of Commuting Solutions, a Louisville-based membership organization that advocates for transportation investments in the northwest metro region.
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