Check out video of talks at the 2012 State of the Valley Symposium
The debate on how to improve the traffic situation on I-70 from Denver into the mountains continues in the Senate Transportation Committee meeting room today as bills from opposite sides of the legislative aisle get consideration.
Although the two bills are sponsored by Sens. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, it is worth noting that they are both proposing road or congestion pricing for the I-70 corridor. They disagree on the details of how such a framework would operate and how revenues might be re-invested, but the foundation of their proposals seem to cross political ideology — use market forces to manage an increasingly scare resource (otherwise known as road capacity).
There may be a number of reasons these proposals are on the committee table now rather than after groups such as the I-70 Coalition have made their recommendations, but that’s a reality of the legislative process. Nevertheless, the combination of successful congestion pricing programs in London and Stockholm and the proposals for similar programs in New York City and San Francisco make the idea a powerful one that will likely become a part of the package for I-70 regardless of the outcome of the Romer and McElhany bills this year.
The reality of decreasing transportation funding from gas taxes, increasing construction costs, and limited geography is making congestion pricing an increasingly viable tool to manage traffic and congestion in communities and on highways.
As Gordon Price, transportation Planner and former City Councilor in Vancouver, has commented, “congestion turns out to be an inevitable consequence when the private sector produces and unlimited number of vehicles and expects the public sector to spend limited resources to build an unlimited amount of space for them to run on.”
Put another way, the age of “freeways” is drawing to a close in the Mountain West.
The Rocky Mountain News did a series on the energy boom rocking parts of Colorado and how communities are enjoying, coping, and mitigating the impacts (or at least trying to). The series offers a a number of perspectives and the challenges involved in local-state-federal policy making and planning.
The day 1 article in the series, entitled “The billion dollar question: What if?”, is particularly interesting because two state legislators have taken seemingly opposite positions from the ones you would think they would take given their respective political ties. Their perspective is likely influenced by their location place in the state and the energy boom.
Representative Josh Penry, a Mesa County Republican, is witnessing the energy boom first hand and is a big supporter of creating a permanent trust fund from oil and gas severance taxes – similar to what Wyoming did a decade ago. Chris Romer, a Democratic Senator from the Denver Metro area, favors the more measured approach of analyzing how taxes are currently collected and allocated before the state tries to set up a permanent fund.
Who’s the conservative in this debate?
Read the entire series
The natural resource based economy that dominated the Western Slope of Colorado for so many years is making a come back.
As Jason Blevins writes in the Sunday Denver Post, mining is coming back to a number of communities due to increasing demand and prices for precious minerals like molybdenum.
If the recent natural gas boom in Garfield County offers any crystal ball, more Western Slope communities are due increasing revenues, stressed infrastructure, a quick disappearance of affordable housing, and a shortage of workers.
The natural amenity and natural resource economy are colliding and the only thing they have in common is a reliance on nature.