Wednesday, February 11, 2004
After a group of county organizations succeeded in agreeing on water principles for the state, it has moved on to finding common ground on transportation.
Club 20, representing Northwest Colorado; Action 22, representing Southern Colorado; and Progressive 15, representing Northeast Colorado, along with Denver metro area representatives, have formed a Transportation Principles Working Group.
The group recognizes that instead of fighting over the "little pie" that transportation funding has become, it is more important to find ways to increase the whole pie so all Colorado counties can benefit, said Reeves Brown, president of Club 20.
The group has met four times in the past few months, most recently last Friday.
Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, who represents Club 20 in the group, said the funding shortfall for transportation is a problem throughout the state and needs some solutions.
"Projects that have been on the books, such as the widening of (Colorado Highway) 131 ... are supposedly still on the front burner, but the front burner doesn't have enough juice in it to get the project done quickly," Ellison said.
Maintaining and upgrading highway systems is critical to Northwest Colorado, where many goods are trucked in from elsewhere, Ellison said.
Roads across the state, whether in Denver or more rural areas, such as Northwest Colorado, are getting busier all the time, he said.
The group recognizes that more funding is needed, he said, and because it was successful in coming to a consensus on the water principles, Ellison said members hoped the same consensus could be reached for transportation principles.
The group members do not have specifics yet, but there are several general principles they agree on, Brown said.
They agree the state needs to develop a statewide, long-term vision for transportation planning, which acknowledges that viable transportation corridors enhance economic development statewide, Brown said.
The members also agree that congestion needs to be addressed statewide and that the state needs to commit to maintaining roads and infrastructure that are in place, instead of focusing on adding more lanes to city highways.
Educating the public on the transportation dilemma is also a goal of the group, Brown said.
"If the public truly wants to address (transportation), we need substantial commitment on the part of the public to maintain a sustainable funding source," Brown said.
Those points of consensus have easily been met, he said, but through the ensuing meetings, it's likely more points of diversion will become apparent.
"I think what's encouraging is that we've got broad representation from the state across the table," Brown said. The group has had an open conversation and has expressed an appreciation for the needs of each community, he said. Its next meeting will be in March.
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