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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Road rage: Mayor vs. state

Posted By on Thu, Oct 4, 2012 at 4:04 PM

That ribbon of highway is more expensive than you think.
  • Dougtone
  • That ribbon of highway is more expensive than you think.

For months now, Mayor Steve Bach has been complaining that the Colorado Department of Transportation has unfairly underfunded roads in Colorado Springs.

In fact, Bach thinks CDOT robbed the city of about $151 million over the past six years, as I noted in an earlier blog of a mayoral meeting:

Bach has made no secret of his outrage with CDOT, which he says has violated a Memorandum of Understanding and underpaid the city for road projects to the tune of $151 million over the past six years ... Bach continues to doggedly pressure the state to cough up the dollars, which CDOT says are needed for rural areas. Despite the Springs having 12 percent of the state's population, the MOU guarantees it just 9.48 percent of state transportation dollars. And the city has only received about 4 percent for the past six years.

Meanwhile, Bach noted, "Denver gets its fair share of CDOT funding every year."

All of which sounds pretty convincing. But CDOT Commissioner Les Gruen says the mayor's assessment is dead wrong. For one thing, that MOU never guaranteed the Springs anything. (Check it out for yourself at the bottom of this blog.) Rather, it simply established that the Pikes Peak area had received about 9.48 percent of state transportation funding in the past.

If all had gone well with state budgets, the MOU assumed the Springs would continue to get about the same share. But that hasn't happened. Gruen says CDOT funding has been cut by about a third, and remaining money has been directed to road maintenance. (Interestingly, the MOU states outright that CDOT's first priority is maintenance.)

The Springs has received a smaller percentage of CDOT's now-limited funds because the city doesn't have many state roads, or much in the way of pressing maintenance needs, Gruen says. What the Springs needs is road projects, and CDOT hasn't been funding many of those lately.

But wait, why did Denver get so much money during these hard years?

Gruen notes that Denver has more miles of state roads, and, being a much larger city, qualifies for federal grants that the Springs doesn't. So much of the money that's gone to Denver over the past years couldn't have been used elsewhere.

Food for thought? Maybe. Gruen says Bach has yet to give up his fight with CDOT.


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