CDOT report outlines looming public transportation shortfalls

What the ever-worsening traffic on I-25 suggests, a draft report for the Colorado Department of Transportation might support: That the time to start thinking about a cohesive plan for mass transportation in northeastern Colorado may have arrived.

And a draft report for CDOT also notes that more rural areas in northeastern Colorado could face some severe public transportation shortfalls, based the rapidly growing and changing population in Larimer, Weld and Morgan counties.

“Based on best available information and known trends, it is currently forecast that transit expenses will outstrip the growth in transit revenues by approximately 0.4 percent annually by 2040,” notes the report prepared by Felsburg Holt & Ullevig, of Centennial. “These trends could result in a potential funding gap of more than $480,000 annually. In terms of potential projects and strategies, this means the region will have to secure new funding sources to address funding gaps.”

The Upper Front Range Transportation Planning Region Regional Coordinated Transit and Human Services Plan study area excludes the I-25 corridor to Fort Collins and the U.S. 34 corridor from Loveland to Greeley, focusing on the rural areas that will need the study to secure future funds from the Federal Transportation Authority. Participants in the study included the smaller municipalities and county representatives.

Shortfalls in transportation needs have already been identified here, especially in western Larimer County, where more than 18 percent of the population is older than 65, with little public transportation available.

Specifically, the study looks at segments of the population that might rely more heavily on public transportation, such as the elderly, handicapped or lower-income people. Taking into account this new demographic data required by the FTA makes a case for improving public transportation. However, the funding shortfall will probably grow even just maintaining existing mass transit, the study notes, and the cost of expanding transit operation would probably require finding new funding sources.

The northern Front Range is expected to see some of the fastest growth in the state, over the next 25 years, with an overall population gain of 77 percent by 2040, the study indicated. Comparatively, the entire state’s population is only expected to by about 47 percent.

Weld County would see the fastest population growth by 2040, the study estimated, with a 111 percent gain. Weld would also see the highest growth in the 65-plus population, with a whopping 181 percent gain, that is almost tripling the number of senior citizens.

The study did recommend some short-term strategies to potentially link existing or new regional transportation routes with those of nearby municipalities and RTD, such as:

• Exploring the need and feasibility of other regional services 1and connections based on the outcome of the Intercity and Regional Bus Network Plan.
• Implementing regional service connecting Fort Morgan with Denver along I-76.
• Providing connections south on Highway 71 to I-70.
• Identifying grant and other funding opportunities to maximize regional financial resources and coordination opportunities.
• Integrating private transportation providers into the regional transit network.

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