Colorado to Lose Out on Millions in Federal Highway Improvement Funds
Colorado is among several states that will fail to meet federal requirements in time to receive funding for road improvements. As Associated Press reports in an article on NPR.org, “Approximately one-third of states have indicated they may not meet a Jan. 30 deadline for their drivers’ license offices to require interstate truck drivers to provide proof from a medical professional that they are healthy enough to drive, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”
The article, which Associated Press (AP) writer Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to, says:
States that fail to comply with the federal mandate could lose 5 percent of their highway funds… If they remain out of compliance for a second year, that penalty doubles. But noncompliant states could receive a grace period; as long as they submit a plan to obey the mandate, federal officials have indicated they may not start deducting money until 2014. The federal agency declined to provide a list of the states in jeopardy of missing the deadline. […]
Some states have had trouble meeting the technological standards needed submit truckers’ medical certifications into the nationwide database. Colorado, for example, plans to require truck drivers to submit the medical forms to the licensing bureau beginning Jan. 30 but doesn’t expect to be able to enter the information into the database until mid-summer, said Mark Couch, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The federal government already requires interstate truck drivers to carry medical certification cards. The new federal law that begins on January 30 requires truck drivers to submit their medical approval forms to states, whose licensing offices will enter the information into a national database that tracks invalid licenses and driving violations, among other things.
“Its whole purpose is just to make sure that the drivers on the road are safe,” said Claire O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
As AP reports:
Adding truckers’ medical status to the database was supposed to relieve them of the duty to carry medical cards. But because some states have been slow to implement the requirement, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to continue the card-carrying requirement until Jan. 30, 2014. […]
If some states get their federal highway funding docked, it won’t be the first time they have been penalized for not complying with federal highway safety standards.
Records from the U.S. Department of Transportation show 15 states didn’t comply with the federal government’s minimum penalties for drunken driving in 2011, and 11 states failed to follow federal guidelines to prohibit open-containers of alcohol in vehicles. As a result, those states had more than $350 million transferred from their road construction funds to highway safety efforts.
A January 3 The Denver Post editorial says Colorado had hoped to receive $15 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $48 billion in stimulus money to help launch a $40 million project to extend the HOV/HOT express lanes on I-25 between U.S. 36 and 120th Avenues. The editorial goes on to say that Colorado’s Department of Transportation would need an additional $3 billion just to keep its system at “the unacceptable status quo for 10 years” (status quo meaning only 44% of state roads would be in good or fair condition). To have 60% of the roads at good or average level would require $5.1 billion.
The Denver Post editorial says:
As we emerge from the Great Recession, lawmakers in Washington and Colorado must revisit infrastructure investment. Among the ideas that have to be on the table: increased gas taxes or, if those prove unworkable, indexing them to account for inflation; public-private partnerships; and pilot programs that charge people for vehicle miles traveled and otherwise account for alternative-fuel vehicles and increases in fuel efficiency.
In the near term, it may be easier to kick the can down the road.
But what happens when our roads, neglected for too long, need to be replaced rather than repaired?
In a reader comment below the editorial, Steven C. writes:
… [A]s a fairly new arrival, I can testify to just how badly the shape of roads here are!
Invisible lane markings, unlit, tiny street signs, located at the back of intersections (which have to contribute to accidents, thus delays, gridlock, and many lost work-hours), lousy, confusing signage, usually posted at the very last chance to change one’s lane, & freeways with at points just two or three lanes, which is crazy…
If the state doesn’t fix this situation pretty soon, especially as population will be increasing, this place will become a real mess, much worse than it already is, which is not good…