Study: Insufficient infrastructure costs Coloradans $6.8 billion per year
March 1, 2017
Using a variety of standardized formulas, national transportation organization TRIP calculated the cost, per driver, per year, of poor road conditions based on vehicle maintenance, safety and congestion.
Location *VOC Safety Congestion Total
Colorado Springs $776 $406 $772 $1,954
Denver $753 $308 $1,101 $2,162
Northern Colorado $440 $575 $381 $1,396
Grand Junction $629 $423 $212 $1,264
Pueblo $732 $571 $250 $1,553
*Vehicle Operation Cost
Traffic crashes, vehicle maintenance and surging congestion related to deteriorating infrastructure combine to cost Colorado motorists $6.8 billion each year, according to a study from national transportation organization TRIP.
The report, released Wednesday, uses a variety of standardized formulas to break down the costs associated with inadequate roadways. The report shows annual costs, per driver, for vehicle operation and maintenance, safety and congestion.
Northern Colorado, which researchers said includes Greeley, Loveland and Fort Collins, earned good marks in vehicle maintenance and congestion costs.
With 74 people killed annually, the area was the worst when it came to relative safety.
"We know from a variety of research, roadway safety conditions don't cause many crashes, but they often prevent crashes," said Rocky Moretti, TRIP policy adviser.
The cost of car crashes is estimated by a Federal Highway Administration formula, which takes into account time off work and medical costs. Moretti said TRIP used that formula, plugged in crashes around Colorado, then divided by three (about a third of serious car crashes are the result of poor roadways, Moretti said).
The result, for northern Colorado, is $575 per year, per licensed driver. It's more than $100 more per year than Colorado Springs, Denver or Grand Junction. Pueblo is close, at $571 per year.
Weld County Sheriff's Office spokesman Cpl. Matt Turner said decreasing serious traffic crashes is a big push this year.
Turner said small violations, like rolling through a stop sign, can lead to big consequences. This year, deputies will hand out pamphlets to each motorist they stop. The pamphlets include emotional anecdotes and big numbers.
"We're always trying to find a way to make Weld County a safer place," Turner said.
Infrastructure advocates seized on the report as proof of the need for more funding, and they showed support for a potential ballot referendum for a statewide bond issue similar to the $2-plus billion bond Colorado voters passed in the early 2000s.
"The momentum is really positive and really good with respect to addressing the challenge this year," said Sandra Solin, lobbyist with the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance.
Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said he's more optimistic this year than in the past, citing higher interest among legislators.
"It's still not easy, because the difference between an adequate solution and a politically feasible solution are quite a ways apart," Norton said.
Norton was director of the Colorado Department of Transportation in the early 2000s when voters passed a statewide infrastructure bond project.
"Bonding is a definitive way to get projects done," Norton said, adding that inflation for road construction costs makes bonds an economical choice.
Still, Norton and others have reservations. Namely, they say there needs to be a dedicated revenue stream for road projects or to pay back bonds going forward.
With the TRIP report finding that 52 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in northern Colorado urban areas in poor or mediocre condition, and that condition costing drivers an average of $440 per year in vehicle maintenance, advocates say the time for a fix is here.
The costs of sitting in traffic — 17 hours $381 per year in northern Colorado — and the projections about the northern Colorado population, which is winding its way toward 1 million people eventually further compound the problem.
"This report underscores that our state must act to solve Colorado's transportation challenges," said David May, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. "In addition to commuter frustration, there are real costs associated congestion. We need to stop kicking the proverbial can down our deteriorating roads."
Tyler Silvy covers city and county government for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.