CO lawmakers at odds over sales tax–backed funding of toll lane construction
- Colorado lawmakers gave the initial green light to a multibillion-dollar transportation bill that prevents sales-tax revenue from being used to fund toll lanes, according to the Denver Business Journal.
- The bill would put a 20-year, 0.62% sales-tax hike on the November ballot. If approved, it would generate $685 million, which would enable a $3.5 billion bond sale to pay for highway projects.
- Some state Republicans have rallied against the bill because it is not counterbalanced by state spending cuts. Although it generally prohibits using the new tax revenue on toll roads, Republican legislators said the bill includes several exceptions that would allow it.
Some of the scenarios in which the bill would allow the new sales-tax revenue to be used on toll roads is if the federal government has already authorized the highway expansion in question, if the tolls are earmarked for something other than revenue generation or if the toll lane would result in less traffic congestion.
Similar to legislators around the country, commuters often complain about the increase in tolls, or "toll fatigue", but many motorists enjoy the faster ride those roads can bring. For example, in Houston, a trip along the full length of the city's Grand Parkway, which is under construction, will cost more than $10 when complete, but the finished sections of the road had more than 10 million toll transactions in January alone, indicating that area residents will likely continue to utilize fee-based lanes and roads.
Many of these projects, like the one in Houston, are completed under public-private partnerships (P3s), which allow private consortiums to finance, design, build and then operate and maintain the roadways in exchange for a portion of the collected tolls. As this delivery method grows in popularity, there are sure to be questions around taxpayer funding of these projects, as well as other issues related to transparency and planning.
Currently in North Carolina, state officials have hired an independent consultant to review the state's contract with the P3 group hired to deliver tolled express lanes for the Charlotte-area portion of Interstate 77. Critics of the project, which is currently under construction, want it scrapped because they say the toll lanes will speed traffic in and out of Charlotte but will increase congestion for local traffic and commercial truckers.
- bizjournals.com Prohibition against taxing for toll roads draws mixed response as Colorado funding bill passes
- Denver Business Journal Firm chosen to independently review I-77 toll lanes project
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