Colorado road projects are pitched for federal funds

The Denver Post

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Washington, DC, July 2, 2014 | Monte Whaley | comments

Backers of plans to revamp both Interstate 25 north of Denver andC-470 in southwest Denver pitched for federal funding help Tuesday but came away with no guarantees.

Still, Colorado's history of at least paying for portions of its road projects will be looked upon kindly when federal dollars are doled out, said Bill Shuster, GOP chair of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

"There is a tendency to reward states ... who are not waiting for federal dollars to be there," said Shuster.

Local community and political leaders as well as Colorado Congressmen Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman lobbied for north I-25 and C-470, respectively, during a meeting with Shuster at the Colorado Municipal League.

Their hope is to get their projects included in the reauthorization of the 2014 Federal Transportation Bill. The current authorization expires on Sept. 30, leading to uncertainty about short-term funding for road projects.

Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer told Shuster that a $1.2 billion widening of I-25 — particularly adding a third lane from Highway 66 north of Longmont to Highway 14 at Fort Collins — is key to keeping one of the most important interstates in the country viable for the next several decades.

"I-25 is critical to Colorado and the entire country," said Kirkmeyer, who added the highway is key to keeping oil and gas trucks flowing in and out of the state.

C-470, meanwhile, needs a $230 million makeover, which will be paid partially through the addition of tolled express lanes in each direction for about 12 miles, said Ben Stein, chief financial officer for CDOT.

Shuster's committee has broad jurisdiction on various modes of transportation and helps set transportation policy in the United States.

Shuster said he understands the important of Colorado roads, especially I-25, because it keeps freight moving through the country.

"But everybody makes those same arguments to me," said Shuster.

However, he was especially impressed with the Colorado Department of Transportation's Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships program, or RAMP. Under RAMP, CDOT funds multi-year projects based on years of expenditure, rather than saving for the full amount of a project before construction begins.

"That's an approach we could adopt on the federal level," Shuster said. "In Colorado, you are taking the bull by the horns and that is good."

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