Funding is one of the five focus areas of our city’s Transportation Master Plan (TMP). The TMP provides the policy framework for how the city generates and spends revenue to maintain, operation and enhance our transportation infrastructure, services, and programs.
Transportation in Boulder is funded largely through dedicated sales tax:
- .6 percent sales tax, approved in 1967 and does not expire
- .15 percent sales tax, approved in 2013 and expires on Dec. 1, 2019
- .15 percent sales tax will be reallocated from Open Space and Mountain Parks to Transportation in 2020. It will remain in Transportation until Dec. 31, 2029, when it is shifted to the General Fund.
This means for every ten dollars spent on goods and services in Boulder, 7½ cents goes toward funding Transportation. (Note: total sales tax in Boulder is currently 3.86 percent.)
The city also receives funding through federal, state and other local sources.
The 2014 TMP generally gives priority to transportation investments as follows:
- Highest priority - system operations, maintenance and travel safety;
- Next priority – operational efficiency improvements and enhancement of the transit, pedestrian and bicycle system;
- Next lowest priority - quality of life, such as sound walls and traffic mitigation; and
- Lowest priority - automobile capacity additions (new lane and interchanges).
* Within each priority level, all items are given equal weight.
Over the years, our transportation infrastructure, programs and services have grown and expanded. Today, approximately three-quarters of the transportation funding, excluding federal funds, is needed to maintain and operate the system. The remaining funds are programmed for system enhancements through the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). As the cost of maintaining and operating the system continues to grow, less funding will be available for enhancements. For example, the cost of a square yard of sidewalk concrete has increased 35 percent and the cost of a ton of asphalt has increased by 54 percent since 2012.
2019 TMP Update
The city is at a critical time for transportation funding. Flattening sales tax revenues, a general decline in federal, state and local funding sources, and increasing construction costs mean that the city must identify additional sources of revenue if we are to maintain the currently transportation system adequately and continue to invest in enhancements.
In fall 2018, look for opportunities on Be Heard Boulder to weigh in on city investment priorities and provide feedback on how the city is doing in terms of maintenance and system performance.
Following the October 23, 2018, Study Session with City Council, staff will be organizing a community working group of stakeholders to work with staff on investment priorities and to identify potential local funding mechanisms to mitigate the impact of flattening sales tax revenue.
In preparation for the October 23, 2018, City Council Study Session, staff will be preparing documentation on existing budget conditions and future revenue trends, a review of investment policies, and best practices for locally funding operations, maintenance and enhancements in the face of unknown state and federal funding availability.
Chris Hagelin, Senior Transportation Planner