How Do We Pay for Our State’s Transportation System?

We fund our Transportation System with dedicated FEDERAL & CASH Funds rather than the GENERAL FUND

What is our “transportation system”?
Colorado’s transportation system consists of the state highway system (including our interstates, state highways, and toll roads), county and municipal roads, mass transit, airports, railroads, and bicycle and pedestrian routes. The system is primarily managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), although cities, counties, transit authorities, regional transportation authorities, public highway authorities, and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) also manage portions of the system.

The state highway system has over 23,000 total lane miles. (Lane miles are calculated by measuring the centerline length of a road, and multiplying that number by the total number of lanes on the road.) The system supports over 27 billion annual vehicle miles traveled (AVMT) each year. (AVMT is a measurement that multiplies daily traffic data count by the length of each road segment.) The system also includes about 3,500 bridges.

How do we pay for our state’s transportation system?

In FY 2016-17, Colorado’s transportation system was funded with $1.9 billion from three sources: CASH funds, FEDERAL funds, and, to a much smaller degree, GENERAL funds:

CASH FUNDS

The Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF) is the largest source of transportation funding, generating $1.1 billion in FY 2016-17.    The HUTF revenues come from state motor fuel taxes (22¢/gallon for gasoline, and 20.5¢/gallon for diesel), vehicle registration fees, and smaller sources like driver’s license fees and fines.

Other sources of cash funds for transportation, totaling $238 million in FY 2016-17, include the Aviation Fuel Tax, fines, and fees from emission inspections, motorcycle registrations, and toll lanes.

FEDERAL FUNDS

Congress allocates transportation funds (including funds for highways) to each state from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. These funds are primarily generated by the federal Gasoline Tax (18.4¢/gallon) and Diesel Tax (24.4¢/ gallon). In FY 2016-17, Colorado received $521.0 million from Congress for transportation funding.

GENERAL FUNDS

In some years, the Colorado legislature has provided additional General Fund revenue for transportation. In FY 2016-17, the legislature allocated $79 million of General Funds to the State Highway Fund.