U.S. Highway 36 between Denver and Boulder.

(Photo: Courtesy of flickr user Let Ideas Compete)
Colorado’s Department of Transportation is closely watching as Congress debates how to pay for the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has said the fund will run out of money by August if lawmakers do nothing.

Some lawmakers want to raise the $0.18 per gallon federal gas tax that funds the roads. That tax hasn't seen an increase in two decades. And with more fuel efficient vehicles, drivers are paying less. Others in Congress want to find the funds elsewhere.

Colorado receives about $500 million of those federal highway dollars, which represents about half of its $1 billion transportation budget.

If federal funding stops because Congress can't find a solution, CDOT spokesperson Amy Ford says the state has some money in reserve to finish projects already in progress.

"The Twin Tunnels project, work that we are doing in Colorado Springs -- those would all continue," Ford says. "But if the fund does go insolvent here later in the fall and things are not addressed towards the end of the year, we may have to look at whether or not we can begin new projects.” 

Ford says the impasse in Congress will have no effect on the federal money being used to pay for last year’s flood damage to roads. It comes from a different source of funds.

“So specifically those on US 36 going up to Estes Park, or eventually US 34 and others, those will actually continue because they are funded through emergency relief funds and that’s something separate right now of the funding that’s being talked about with the Trust Fund," she said.