Ballot language approved for sales-tax-for-roads renewal question posed to El Paso County voters

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) board this week approved ballot language for Election Day voters to decide whether to extend the capital funding portion of the authority’s one-cent sales tax, and also agreed on a priority list of projects.

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The tax — on residents of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls, Ramah and Calhan — was passed by voters in 2004 and renewed in 2014.

The capital portion of the tax comprises 55% of revenue generated by the tax, with 35% designated for maintenance and 10% for transit needs; passage would extend the capital portion for one-time projects from 2025 through 2034.

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Projects already prioritized include a $60 million widening of Marksheffel Road, a $120 million connection of Powers Boulevard to Voyager Parkway and Interstate 25, upgrades on North Nevada Avenue and two improvement projects in Manitou Springs on Serpentine Drive and Manitou Avenue.

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The PPRTA tax will cover much of those costs, with funding coming from other sources.

Holly Williams, a county commissioner who also chairs the PPRTA board, hopes that voters won’t underestimate the need to renew the tax.

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“It’s really the only way we can fund local road projects that wouldn’t get done otherwise,” she said. “People may not think much about the overpass at Austin Bluffs and Union, or the overpass at Academy and Woodmen, but those are among the many projects completed because of the tax.”

The PPRTA board says that every priority project financed by the tax has been completed, is underway or is in planning or design.

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“The tax has always done what we promised it would,” Williams said. “We’re hoping that recent issues such as the pandemic, inflation and high fuel prices won’t hurt public support.”

During a City Council meeting earlier this week, Councilwoman Yolanda Avila expressed some concern about the extension request.

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“All these projects being planned are nice and they’re needed,” she said. “But many streets and sidewalks in my southeast side district are still in bad shape. Sometimes my district gets overlooked when compared to the northeast side.”

Avila said that the east end of Pikes Peak Avenue is an example, and one of her constituents agrees.

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“Don’t charge me a tax if my street isn’t getting repaired,” said Daniel Torres. “I speak for other people in the neighborhood. Look at the road… look at the back roads. They’re terrible.”

Williams said that she understands the frustration but explained that the highest-priority needs are met first, and secondary projects are addressed if funding remains after the priority projects.

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“It’s also harder to complete these projects, such as streets and sidewalks, because of new federal disability requirements,” she said. “But we’re aware of what the Councilwoman’s saying, and I think we’ll be able to get to that project and others like it within a few years.”

The PPRTA said it recently acquired emergency funding to repair three bridges in Avila’s district, on Circle Drive.

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Extending the tax could generate as much as $1 billion through 2035, according to the PPRTA.

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