A Colorado Springs tax watchdog group obtained communications between city employees that show discussion of using sales tax revenue for traffic reduction and bike lane infrastructure while other city officials have denied that’s where funds would be directed.
City voters approved a road improvement ballot measure called 2C in 2015, which is up for renewal in the Nov. 5 election. 2C is a 0.62 percent sales tax increase that is supposed to be dedicated to road maintenance and improvements.
SpringsTaxpayers.com obtained communications in a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request that show city officials discussing using 2C funds for “road dieting” in 2020. Other communications indicate that the Colorado Springs Traffic Planning Department plan use funding for “transportation capacity reduction,” in correspondences with the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA), which manages transportation in the region.
Road dieting is the practice of reducing lanes in an attempt to reduce traffic and dissuade people from driving in favor of other commuting methods like biking and public transportation.
“The City administration has previously communicated to the public that 2C money is not going to fund bike lane infrastructure via road-dieting,” Laura Carno of SpringsTaxpayers.com said in a statement. “We have found through CORA requests that City officials are referring to some bike lane projects as being a part of the 2C project list.”
The ballot measure reads in part, “all revenues derived therefrom to be placed in a dedicated fund to be expended only upon road repairs and improvements within the city, including residential streets, park and city golf course access roads and cemetery roads, and road reconstruction where severe deterioration does not allow repair, as a voter approved revenue change and exception to revenue …"
In one email correspondence obtained by SpringsTaxpayers.com, the city’s Principal Transportation Planner Tim Roberts emailed a city traffic engineer a list of 2C projects that his department planned on considering for road dieting.
“Here are the 2C projects for 2020 that we want to consider for roadway diets...both for bikes and operation/safety,” Roberts wrote in a Sept. 11 email, citing five road diet plans.
In an email obtained by The Center Square, a city official denied that 2C funds would go towards bicycle infrastructure after a citizen questioned the city.
“I do need to clarify- 2C and any extension of 2C (should voters decide to vote for it) does not pay for bicycle infrastructure, or bike lanes,” Maren McDowell, a citizen relations and information specialist for the city, said in a Sept. 20 email. “Bike infrastructure comes from within our Traffic Engineering Division, and the two have disparate budgets.”
“The language ‘transportation capacity reduction’ that was used in internal emails to describe bike lane projects, is not what most voters have in mind when they think of road improvements in El Paso County, and the member cities of PPRTA,” Carno said. “In a time of increasing traffic, residents are clamoring for better transportation for cars, not reducing traffic lanes in favor of lesser-used bike lanes.”
The city did not immmediately respond to requests for comment.
Carno’s group released a report in September that found 53 percent of revenue from 2C went to paving roads, while 47 percent went to “other improvements.”