Traffic safety fund rolls forward in Longmont
It’s no secret that funds for transportation projects and programs are increasingly hard to find. Cutbacks and dwindling dollars at the state, regional and local levels seem to be the steady themes. I all too frequently hear from city and county staff, advocates and elected officials that there just isn’t enough money to meet project demands, so I get excited when I hear about a creative funding solution that generates capital outside traditional channels. I was intrigued last year when Ryan Kragerud, president of Bicycle Longmont, told me about his group’s promotion of a moving violation surcharge. Still somewhat hot off the press, the Longmont City Council approved the surcharge through an ordinance at its June 10 meeting, which can be read here.
Not Another Tax!
Nope! It’s a $10 surcharge that will only be applied to moving violations issued in the city. It’s important to point this out because opponents attempted to brand it as a new tax that would be applied to all households. Not the case. Kragerud estimates that the surcharge could generate between $18,000 – $25,000 a year. All revenue will be set aside in a traffic safety fund that can be spent on educational materials, enforcement, community outreach, program assessment and safety equipment purchases.
“It’s not a lot of money, but it’s enough to make a difference,” Councilwoman Bonnie Finley said. It won’t cover infrastructure projects, for example, but a lot of good traffic safety programs, including Safe Routes to School education programs, could be paid for through this fund.
Where it All Began
Kragerud was running errands one day in Longmont when he saw a hurried motorist cut off a cyclist in a near right-hook. Shortly thereafter, he saw the same motorist getting a ticket and he thought that perhaps moving violators should pay a surcharge to make roads safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Recognizing that a lack of safety, either real or perceived, is a leading reason that more people don’t ride their bikes, Kragerud says, “It’s going to make our streets safer and our neighborhoods much more liveable.”
Fund Roll Out
It’s estimated that as soon as October 2014, organizations will be able to apply for project funds. Longmont’s Finance Department will track the fund’s accumulation and expenditures and the City Manager will provide an annual update to city council on fund distributions.
Keys to Success
Getting the surcharge ordinance over the finish line with council’s adoption wasn’t easy. When I asked Kragerud to highlight some keys to success, he had lots to share. First, develop good working relationships with city council members. Meet with them individually to discuss the proposal and hear and address their concerns. Second, meet with your municipal judge and police chief to hear and address their concerns. Lastly, keep all key players in the loop throughout the process through consistent communication.
Congratulations to the members of Bicycle Longmont, the city staff, and elected officials who collaborated to make this happen. I’m excited to hear about what programs receive funding in the coming months.