We walk, bike, drive, ride the bus, and sometimes skateboard on our streets, and unless there’s a pothole ahead, we don’t give it much thought. Our street structure is society’s circulatory system and it’s time we looked at its medical chart. Frostbite? Pavement decay? Internal injuries? There are always problems that need attention. Street maintenance and construction are primary services provided by Colorado’s municipalities. There are nearly 16,000 miles of city streets in Colorado — 25 percent more than just a decade ago. That’s a lot of miles to pave, stripes to paint, and potholes to fill. But every mile is essential to deliver groceries to the store on the corner, to get your children to school, to connect you to work and return you safely back home at the end of the day.
We need to be looking closely at the health of our streets — how well we maintain our transportation system and how well we expend it to meet today’s needs. The recently-released 2014 Colorado Municipal League’s State of our Cities and Towns report is based on a survey of municipalities large and small from across the state. The survey results show that while municipal budgets are rebounding following the Great Recession, only 41 percent of cities and towns have once again fully funded their street maintenance budgets. Nine out of ten municipalities list street maintenance as a budgetary challenge, while just over half list it as their number one budgetary challenge. Beyond maintaining what we have, the need for expanding and upgrading the system exceeds the dollars available. Fifty-seven percent of municipalities report having major street projects awaiting funding; 30 percent have bridge projects awaiting funding; 27 percent have bicycle projects, and 40 percent have pedestrian projects. There is much work to be done.