Science Notes

SB21-260 Would Allocate Billions of Dollars for Transportation and Infrastructure Improvements in Colorado

By Mikkela Blanton

May 2021

Traffic on I-25 in Denver. Photo courtesy of The Denver Channel.

The state of the transportation system in Colorado isn’t anything to brag about. Denver-area drivers spend about $2,000 more in congestion-related wasted fuel and road repairs relative to drivers in other areas, and in Boulder, estimates show that approximately 80 percent of employees enter town in single-occupant vehicles — so it’s no surprise that 28 percent of Boulder’s emissions are attributed to transportation. And while traffic levels were down during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, congestion is rebounding as economic activity increases. By 2040, the population of Colorado is expected to increase by 48 percent to 7.8 million people — a statistic that doesn’t bode well for those already fed up with long commute times. 

Part of the problem is that the transportation sector is poorly funded in Colorado. While most of the state’s revenue for transportation comes from a gas tax of 22 cents per gallon, this tax hasn’t been increased for two decades. The 22 cent tax is six cents lower, on average, than gas taxes in other states. And with the rise in electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient vehicles, the gas tax’s power as an income generator — especially when combined with inflation and rising construction and infrastructure costs — has been eroded. 

But the state of Colorado has a plan, fueled by an ambitious transportation funding bill that is quickly moving through the legislature. The bill, SB21-260 – Sustainability Of The Transportation System, would create new sources of funding for the development, planning, funding, and construction of a sustainable transportation system.

Sustainability Of The Transportation System: The Details

The bill has outlined goals related to both reduced greenhouse gas emissions and equal mobility. The bill would allocate investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, as well as alternative transportation options, including investments in bike paths, carpooling apps, rideshare programs, pedestrian improvements, and expanded public transit options.  

Of the proposed $5.3 billion in funds, $2 million would be allocated to Colorado towns over a 10-year period for infrastructure and roadway improvements; the bill will also create ongoing funding streams for the maintenance and repair of critical transportation priorities, such as roads and bridges. 

Part of this funding would come through the creation of new fees, including fees on electric vehicle registrations (the existing $50 registration fee per electric vehicle would also annually be adjusted for inflation); road usage equalization registration fees for regular and commercial electric vehicles; and a per-gallon fee on gasoline and diesel. These fees will comprise the majority of the funding — $3.8 billion. The remaining $1.5 billion will come from federal stimulus money allocated to the state and the state’s general fund.  

The legislation is meant to spur enhanced collaboration between three big state offices: the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE), and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO). What’s more, each entity that receives funding from the bill will be required to adopt transparency, performance, and accountability measures. Should the bill pass, the CEO and CDPHE will also need to provide reporting on progress made towards the goals set forth in the Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap and the Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan 2020.

State of the Bill

The bill was originally introduced on May 4, 2021, and was quickly passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee, and then the Senate on May 17. On Monday, May 24, the bill was heard by the House FInance Committee, which referred an amended version to the House Appropriations Committee. If it passes through the House Appropriations Committee, it will then go to a floor vote. You can follow the latest actions on the bill here.

Learn More and Get InvolvedIf you want to learn more about the Sustainability Of The Transportation System bill, you can read the bill text here. You can also read about the unveiling of the legislation here. Finally, if you want to contact your representative in support of or opposition to the bill, you can look up your representatives and access their contact information here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: