Set aside past frustration, back real funding for transportation

By John Tayer — October 12, 2018

I know, we’ve been to this dance before. We believed RTD would provide regional rail service, and we paid for it, only to see those plans languish in the face of depleted FasTracks funds and a recalcitrant commercial rail line owner. Now, faced with decisions on two competing statewide ballot measures that promise critical transportation investments, one might hear their mother asking why we always date boys/girls “like that.”

It’s time to put aside the reflection on frustrations with failed promises from the past and step back out on that dance floor in pursuit of real funding to solve our local and regional transportation challenges.

First, what are the choices in front of us this November? Proposition 110, also called “Let’s Go Colorado,” would provide for a statewide sales tax increase to pay for highway, multimodal and local transportation projects. The Colorado Department of Transportation’s specified priority projects, including Highway 119 and Colorado Highway 7, are critical commute routes for Boulder County. Additionally, local communities will receive 40 percent of Proposition 110 funding to meet their own transportation investment goals.

A rival proposal, Proposition 109, cleverly named “Fix Our Damn Roads,” would be for just that: fixing only roads and bridges (and very little in Boulder County) paid for by more expensive bonds and without a source of funds to pay them back. Yes, it’s nice to think you can get something for nothing, but any successful business leader would question that deal. In fact, Proposition 109 would impose costs that all of us would bear, forcing the state to shift funds away from other important priorities, such as higher education, in order to pay for the targeted road improvements.

It’s probably pretty clear where the Boulder Chamber stands on these two competing initiatives, but I’ll leave you in suspense as I recount the underlying need these two ballot measures address:  At the Boulder Chamber’s recent policy roundtable, my colleague at the Denver Chamber, Kelly Brough, explained the imperative to invest in transportation solutions. As anyone who spends hours sitting in rush hour traffic recognizes, Kelly observes that the years of unprecedented prosperity all Coloradans have enjoyed is putting a strain on our roads and mass transit system that threatens to apply a lurching break to our economy. That’s not surprising when considering that, while Colorado’s population has nearly doubled over the past quarter century, we now spend roughly half the amount per driver than we spent in 1991 on maintenance and upgrades to our transportation system.

Of course, at our policy roundtable, the ongoing frustrations about RTD’s failure to deliver on past promises understandably resurfaced. Continuing to allow past policy disputes and broken promises to congest our reasoning on reasonable solutions to our transportation funding deficits will leave us in a permanent traffic jam that impacts our economy and quality of life.

The Boulder Chamber approaches all taxation issues judiciously. Every investment must address needs that are clearly defined and constitute a wise commitment of limited resources. In this case, we successfully fought along with our other Boulder County policy leadership to ensure that our transportation projects will receive priority State funding. We also worked with the collation of business leaders and public officials from across Colorado to ensure that a significant percentage of Proposition 110 dollars would flow directly to our own communities, giving us the authority to invest in local transportation priorities. These are real dollars that will provide real transportation solutions.

So by now it’s no mystery where the Boulder Chamber stands: Yes, we vigorously support Proposition 110 and urge our business colleagues to do the same. Let’s move on from past frustrations, get back in the dance, and support the best transportation investment options for Boulder’s future. Vote yes on Proposition 110 and Let’s Go Colorado!

John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at (303) 442-1044, ext 110 or

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