Colorado Infrastructure Receives C- on Latest ASCE Report Card
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Colorado’s infrastructure earned a C-minus on its recent report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Published Jan. 30, the report card assessed aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, levees, parks, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit and wastewater.
ASCE’s last report card for Colorado was in 2010; the state received a C grade.
Peyton Gibson, chair of the state’s infrastructure report card committee, said Colorado has changed over the past decade, noting the population has grown by nearly 1 million people. (The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 5.7 million people were in Colorado in 2019.)
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By category, bridges earned a C-plus, an improvement from C-minus on the 2010 card. Some 5.4% of Colorado’s bridges are classified as structurally deficient, well below the national average of 8.4%. However, the report card indicates Colorado’s rate of structural deficiency may increase if future funding doesn’t keep up with population growth.
Roads also improved to C-minus from a D grade. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, some 44% of the state’s roads are in good condition, which is higher than the national average of 28%.
Gibson said Colorado’s mountainous terrain, which is subject to rockfalls and avalanches, can be a challenge for travelers and infrastructure. Gibson herself was stuck in Veterans Memorial Tunnel (which carries Interstate 70 about 30 miles west of Denver) for two hours because of a sudden rockfall event.
“Trucks can’t make it to their final destinations, or it’s another eight hours around some other way,” Gibson said. “That [also] really affects the roads. It puts more potholes in the roads.”
ASCE recommends increasing funding from all levels of government, assessing the use of public-private partnerships for larger projects and implementing managed lanes on corridors that experience heavy congestion.
This past November, Colorado residents rejected by 54% a measure that would allow the state to retain revenue above the state spending cap to fund transportation and education.
In 2018, other transportation measures on the Colorado ballot failed. One would have authorized up to $3.5 billion in bonds for statewide transportation projects. The other would have authorized a 0.62-cent increase in the state’s sales and use tax for the next 20 years and would have allowed the CDOT to issue bonds up to $6 billion.
ASCE also recommends raising the federal and state fuel tax rate. Colorado’s fuel tax rate — 20.5 cents per gallon for diesel and 22 cents per gallon for gasoline — hasn’t changed since 1991.
“Voters in our state have a lot of power and a lot of say over infrastructure funding because we cannot raise taxes in Colorado without it going to a popular vote,” Gibson said. “In general, people don’t like to raise taxes.”
In a show of support for infrastructure investment, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a proclamation designating Jan. 30 “Colorado Public Infrastructure Day.”
“We are excited that the state is finally starting hold this issue a little bit more paramount,” Gibson said. “Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to our legislators that the time to take action on this issue is right now.”
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