by Dennis Polhill & Stephen Mueller

Action Agenda

Principles

  • There is no impending catastrophe in the economy, in the environment, in technology, or in the availability of resources that will force society to give up the freedom of automobile and truck transportation.
  • The evolution of technology will generally augment the freedom and wealth of people. Pertinent examples of this new technology include the information highway, electric cars, and “Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems (IVHS).” Free market mechanisms such as congestion pricing and weight-distance highway user fees can be used to help implement these new technologies.
  • Transportation is fundamentally a private good, because the benefits accrue to the individual using the service, not to society. Thus, it is inappropriate for government to subsidize transportation.

Transportation Finance

  • The priority order for using Highway User Tax Fund (HLTTF) revenues should be:
    1. Preservation of the existing system.
    2. Capacity enhancement.
    3. Capacity improvement.
    4. New construction.
  • The gasoline tax is a user fee that is imprecise and inadequately assigns the costs and benefits of system usage. The gas tax should be replaced or supplemented with more direct user fees such as congestion pricing, weight-distance fees, and toll roads.
  • Although HUTF revenues increased significantly, the condition of Colorado’s roads has diminished. The current policy is failing to adequately to maintain Colorado’s roads and is putting the capital investment in highway infrastructure at risk. To reverse this trend and to mitigate this risk, the following HUTF operating policies should be adopted:
  • “Off-the-Top” expenditures from the HUTF should be stopped. Administration of the fund should require less than I%.
  • Use of HLJTF revenues by the 331 government agencies should be applied to protecting the already existing infrastructure first. That is, HUTF funds should not be used for new construction, bonded indebtedness, appurtenances, etc. when the condition of roads is declining.
  • Congestion pricing and deregulation will create the market-driven incentives that increase the acceptance of carpools and vanpools. In anticipation of this new demand, a plan to develop an enlarged system of (High Occupancy Vehicles) HOV lanes should be developed.
  • Improve infrastructure financing and accountability. Require local governments to establish separate funds to accept HUTF distributions. Promote dedicated financing sources for infrastructure maintenance.

Colorado Department of Transportation

  • Divest CDOT of highway ownership and operation.
  • Do not allow CDOT to consume and integrate RTD and other transportation providers into a bigger and more bureaucratic organization.
  • Use private sector solutions, not large government programs, to help solve transportation problems. Loosening regulations designed to protect government monopolies will help provide more transportation service at lower cost. Pursue private sector funding of transportation. Employ more user fees so that the costs of services can be borne by the individual benefiting. Oppose RTD-only bus lanes that limit public access to publicly funded projects.

Highway System Operation

  • Develop and implement a modern pavement management system to insure that the proper maintenance is done at the proper time at a minimum cost.
  • More sophisticated systems of enhancing highway capacity should be implemented. These include traffic signal synchronization, ramp metering, and driver information systems.
  • Begin planning a system of Congestion Pricing, and Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems (IVHS). Encourage studies of other cities with IVHS in place. Conduct pilot programs on selected highways, and back the idea and launch a legislative effort to implement a market-incentives program.
  • Strictly prohibit overweight vehicles on roads and/or develop a weight-distance pricing structure so that economic incentives work properly.

Mass Transit

  • Stop expansion of light rail (LRT) until the viability of LRT technology can be successfully demonstrated in the Denver metro area. The MAC was sold as a demonstration project and should be used as such.
  • Implement pricing systems that allow government and private transit services to operate on uncongested HOV lanes.
  • Remove existing regulatory restrictions that restrict competition and restrain trade in transportation.

Air Quality

  • Support carpooling programs through expanded HOV/bus lanes. Encourage use of high occupancy vehicles (HOV).
  • Design and adopt an emissions pricing system. This acknowledges that there is a finite quantity of air to allocate and assigns a user fee to those who consume the limited resource. To be fair, the system must apply equally to all (including governments) and to fixed-site emission generators.