Public forum to address regional transportation issues | SteamboatToday.com

Public forum to address regional transportation issues

Mike McCollum

Regional transportation will be discussed at a public forum tonight at Olympian Hall in the Howelsen Hill Lodge. Issues facing the I-70 corridor and Northwest Colorado will be addressed.

— The public is invited tonight to discuss regional transportation issues facing the I-70 corridor and Northwest Colorado.

The event, hosted by the Routt County Democratic Party as its first Campaign 2008 Policy Seminar, will feature presentations from Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush and Dr. Flo Railtano, director of the I-70 Mountain Corridor Coalition.

Mitsch Bush, who noted the discussion is bi-partisan despite the Democratic Party sponsorship, said presentations will focus on transportation funding problems and will be followed by a question and answer session.

“The public doesn’t realize how expensive roads and bridges are, and the irony is that as expenses have gone up so dramatically, the major source of funding has gone down,” Mitsch Bush said.

She said transportation has been traditionally funded through a gasoline tax.

“At the federal and state levels, the gas tax has not been raised since the early 1990s,” she said. “It’s very much a lack of political will and the anti-tax climate we have gone into the past 20 years. People forget you have to pay for public services. Bike lanes, roads, rail lines and highways all have to be paid for.”

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Mitsch Bush said road improvements on Colorado Highway 131 cost about $2 million per mile.

“That’s just for repairing a road, not building a new one,” she said. “The bottom line is that this stuff costs money. Lots of money.”

Mitsch Bush said she will focus on regional issues, such as utilizing a rail spur to Craig for rail passenger service, while Railtano will discuss transportation along I-70.

“Even though we are separate as far as purposes of planning and budgeting, what happens along I-70 and what happens up here affects each other,” she said. “When you look at draft plans, we share many of the same issues and problems.”

Mitsch Bush added that the Aug. 1 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people, sent a warning to transportation planners across the country that road and bridge departments can’t be shortchanged.

“We are really in a ‘quiet crisis’ where most people don’t even know we are in a transportation funding emergency,” she said. “There is never a silver bullet for any policy, but the purpose of these seminars is to revolve around the problems and potential solutions. The smart thing to do is to get smart people together to look at all the data, not just their neck of the woods, but how regions affect other regions and that we are all in this together.”

If you go

What: Public forum to discuss regional transportation issues

When: 5:30 p.m. today

Where: Olympian Hall in the Howelsen Hill Lodge