Utah is the model for CO highway funding, really?

CDOT officials and our Gov. continually throw UT in our face as the model we should follow. Primarily because they raised their gas tax but they also tout the amazing roads in UT and the fact they are a red state, as if we didn’t know. In my recent business trip to the red state I took some notes for comparison. First thing I noticed was I-70 in UT is basically in the same shape our portion is excluding the mountain corridor as they don’t have mountain passes. Second I noticed Hwy 6 going to Spanish Fork, UT is pretty much a rodeo ride as much of our rural roads are and as I recall Hwy 6 had been rated as one of the most dangerous highways in America.

As I rolled into the Salt Lake valley and hit I-15 north there it was, the beautifully proclaimed tax funded beauty and yes they have kicked our behind with this one. Eight lanes of heaven rolling north in the land of milk, honey and gas taxes. But something struck me as I was rolling along in utter bliss into the city. HOV lanes abound, no restrictions to 3 riders, just 2 like most places I’ve been and much lower tolls. Hmm how could this be. They did have the Olympics which we know was the catalyst for this 8 lane wonder but beyond that it’s massive and it must have taken thousands of acres of imminent domain to widen this puppy for the volume of concrete it took. It would be interesting to see how they accomplished such an immense property grab to pull it off. Traffic was fairly heavy but no problem with the HOV lanes being used prominently as the cost made sense for typical commuters. Must be the gas tax I thought, everything is cheaper with gas taxes. Also of note is Salt Lake proper is the population center so obviously that’s where the money goes, just like CO.

I did ponder what could Denver proper do to widen roads for volume as Salt Lake did, how much property would have to be purchased or taken to accomplish the same goal. Do we need the Olympics to make it happen? I guess we tried that once.

What hit me coming home is we have tried several methods to raise money for highways and if accomplished the money would predominantly hit the front range to pay for volume issues, maybe that’s appropriate just as UT has done. But driving UT seemed no different than CO. Rural areas have difficulty getting funded apparently just like CO. Taxes didn’t work there for rural roads nor would it apparently in CO as most of the rubber meets the road in Denver.

Conclusion seems to be that increases in funding doesn’t really equate to rural roads being improved. Maybe a different thought process should be proposed.

By Ray Scott

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