CREEDE— Mineral County Commissioner Jesse Albright opened a discussion pertaining to a TPR (Transportation Planning Region) meeting he attended in recent weeks with the board during their regular meeting on Nov. 6. Albright explained there would be funding available for the county, mentioning that they need to decide what kind of projects they want to pursue by the beginning of the year.
“CDOT’s draft budget this year is $1.618 billion, and of that they figure about 80 percent will go to maintenance, which they say they are still terribly underfunded,” said Albright. He continued to state that there is a little reprieve in sight because of Senate Bill 267 which will give them $2 billion with 25 percent of that for rural counties, which is $55,000 less than in previous years. Albright explained that CDOT will have to repay $3 billion dollars over the next four years to make up for the $2 billion they borrowed. “It is basically a high interest loan,” said Albright.
Albright continued, saying this led the conversation to the next point; high mileage and electric vehicles are not generating the money the department needs because owners are not paying the regular fuel sales tax and do not represent the use of the road systems nationwide. “So, they are looking at different plans, the one they talked about would be a road usage charge,” explained Albright. “Which would be based on miles driven, rather than fuel.”
CDOT officials expressed the fact that they were only on step three of several steps that would have to be taken in order to have the tax ready to implement. Albright explained that CDOT had a few hundred people from around the state drive and keep track of their mileage and 70 percent of their findings were done by GPS. “There is a huge big brother factor here, in that the government would know where you were and how far you drove,” said Albright.
“One issue I had was how would they be able to monitor county roads and private driveways and other people expressed that same issue. We do get 40 percent of fuel tax for the county,” finished Albright. The proposed road usage tax would also have to take into consideration the tourism that comes to the area and figure out how to determine what portion of people were only visiting the state and how to get them to report their road usage, which in turn presents a huge issue for places like Creede.
“If someone from Texas comes here, how are they going to bill them for their usage, without involving several states?” stated Albright. “It sounds like this is just a monster project that I doubt will ever get off the ground. The electric vehicles seemed to be the issue they were most concerned about and wanted to tax registration more than fuel or road usage.”
Albright closed the conversation by stating that because of Bill 267, now would be the time to possibly get funding for projects throughout the county and that the commissioners need to think of the projects they want to get done. “They want the information before they move forward with deciding where the money would be delegated. This is our best chance to get something done,” said Albright. He continued, explaining that they could make a list of all the projects they would like to pursue and have it in by the beginning of the year for consideration. Commissioners agreed and decided to make a list of projects throughout the county before the deadline and closed the conversation.