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A new report from the Urban Land Institute concludes that the U.S. is falling significantly behind the world in keeping up with its transportation infrastructure needs. And Colorado is right in line with that national trend just when state resources are scarce.

The report predicts that many U.S. cities may follow the Detroit model of abandoning services in some districts, even allowing lightly used blacktopped rural roads to return to nature. Eventually, the report says, the federal gas tax will be increased; local governments will be allowed to toll interstate highways; water bills will rise to pay for pipe and sewer replacement; property and sales taxes will increase; and private, profit-seeking companies will play a much larger role in funding and maintaining public projects.

Last fall, Russell George, then executive director of Colorado Department of Transportation, gave a presentation to a University of Denver strategic issues panel about the status of Colorado roads and funding. He cited statistics that show nearly 53 percent of highways in CDOT’s aging system are rated “poor,” 33 percent of highways need complete reconstruction and some highways are 70-100 years old.

And as federal lawmakers look for ways to cut the budget deficit, costs will be forced onto state and local governments, making the problem worse. In Colorado, where federal funds are expected to make up 34 percent of CDOT’s budget in fiscal year 2011, a decrease in federal funding will greatly accelerate the problem.

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