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Your Turn

RTA passed. What next?


The good news is area voters have overcome their aversion to taxes in order to take care of our aging transportation infrastructure and to better fund our transit system.

The bad news is we have taken on more than our fair share of the burden. And we've forgone a convenient opportunity to make it clear that citizens don't want to, don't need to -- and in fact shouldn't -- subsidize growth.

It's a missed opportunity, but perhaps now that citizens have more than generously stepped up, it will be easier for the City Council and Board of County Commissioners to demand the same from developers and builders. But there's the rub: The temptation will be to think that this new revenue stream will fix the problem. Au contraire!

Let's turn to the now-famous Texas Transportation Institute study, which named our town the most congested city its size in the nation: Of the 85 cities studied, only five have been able to add roadway at a rate equal to or greater than traffic growth. And even those five failed to keep their congestion from getting worse. I'm afraid it's a truism: The bigger a city gets, the more traffic congestion it will have. We'll have to do more than pour asphalt and run buses if we want to slow the decay of what we'll one day remember fondly as a pleasantly short commute. If you think congestion is bad today, just wait!

Honest talk, truthful accounting and visionary leadership, free of undue influence from special interests -- these are missing from the local landscape, and that's a major obstacle to adoption of better growth management practices. We must begin requiring infrastructure be in place concurrent with development and funded by development. And we must require new developments encourage less dependence on the automobile.

Over the past 15 years, Council and commissioners have failed to live within their means when it comes to ensuring adequate capacity is in place systemwide, before approving additional burdens on our infrastructure. And that applies to water as well as roads. Just as new developments have been approved that were projected to jam up traffic, annexations continue while current residents ration and rip out their lawns, and city crews cut down underwatered trees along our once-beautiful city-center boulevards.

I fear the passage of 1A will lead to continued denial of the true costs of basing our prosperity on the myth of a growth bonanza. At Save the Springs we'll continue to shine the spotlight on hidden growth costs and subsidies. Citizens need to push for honest, complete accounting for all the impacts of continued community expansion.

The growth industry successfully conned voters into picking up the tab for its transportation impacts. But we can't turn dollars into water. If the $2.2 billion Southern Delivery System overcomes the hurdles in its path, that doesn't guarantee snow will fall. The Southern Delivery System will be one big, empty pipe at worst. At best it will deliver the most expensive water ever to Springs residents -- at the expense of farms, fish and tourism -- so that a California company can sell lots in Banning-Lewis Ranch to another 150,000 thirsty residents.

No one is even talking about the huge water rescue county residents will need when their wells run dry. And if the Southern Delivery System is stopped dead in its tracks, we will apparently be stuck sharing our limited water with quite a few extra new residents -- because no one is exercising caution about promises we might not be able to keep.

Future archeologists examining our records and artifacts, puzzling over our demise, will wonder, "How did this society fail? They were making money hand-over-fist on real estate development!"

We have serious issues ahead. Let's keep our eyes on the ball.

Dave Gardner is the founder of Save The Springs (, an organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the quality of life in the Pikes Peak Region.

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