With the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package enacted, many Coloradans are considering funding to help maintain the infrastructure that allows the state to function.
Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the bill is extremely important to the county given its high needs, including wildfire protection and water infrastructure. In particular, transportation is still in need of funding across the state, especially along the Interstate 70 mountain corridor that Summit County calls home.
While state-by-state allocations are still only estimates, Colorado is expected to receive $3.7 billion for highway projects, $225 million for bridge replacements and repairs, and $917 million to improve public transports.
Congressman Joe Neguse said the hope is that this funding will help the Colorado Department of Transportation implement its prioritization schedule, a “good chunk” of which will include the I-70 and I-25 north corridors.
“We will continue to work with our local partners, county officials — the mayors of Breck, Frisco, Dillon and the entire county — to ensure Summit County receives its share of funding,” Neguse said. “Obviously (this) couldn’t be more significant in terms of the work that has been done year after year to try to fix and improve I-70.”
Neguse said it is too early to know the details of the projects that will be aided by infrastructure bill funding and that most of those decisions will come from CDOT. While the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels have a lot of needed updates, Pogue said I-70 exits 203 and 205 are also a high priority for Summit County.
CDOT spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said the organization was excited about the financial stimulus spent on transportation.
“We will continue to work closely with our partners to invest smartly in Colorado’s infrastructure, while keeping Governor (Jared) Polis’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the forefront of our minds.” , Thatcher wrote in an email.
Thatcher noted that much of the infrastructure funding planned for Colorado would typically be directed to funding the state’s highways. She said that regarding the “new” funds in the funding program – which CDOT estimates at $700-900 million – these resources will be directed towards the completion of its 10-year plan of projects. .
CDOT Ten-Year Plan, which was last updated this month, is developed in collaboration with local communities to ensure priorities are met. The plan includes $30 million to improve exit 203 in Frisco, where the freeway joins Colorado Highway 9, but nothing to improve exit 205 in Silverthorne and Dillon, which has been criticized locally.
Summit County and CDOT agree when it comes to prioritizing the Eisenhower Tunnel: The next 10-year plan is funding for a climbing route that would run from Bakerville to the tunnel.
“Like bridges, Colorado added tunnels to our existing business as part of the statewide modernization enacted under SB 260,” Thatcher wrote. “We had already identified $50 million for the most urgent repairs and upgrades to the Eisenhower Tunnel, and identifying funding for the next phases of this work will be a priority in the next planning cycle we undertake.”
Thatcher said Colorado will also have the opportunity to compete for expanded federal grants because of the infrastructure package.
“With the state-level transportation package passed earlier this year, Colorado should be uniquely competitive in our grant applications, with the ability to more easily identify matching funds,” Thatcher said.
Colorado should also get $35 million for wildfire recovery, which Neguse personally defended. Neguse said it was “essential” for some communities recovering from last year’s “devastating” wildfires.
Neguse said much of that money will go toward fuel management through the US Forest Service, particularly in the White River National Forest to benefit Summit County. Pogue also said wildfire mitigation remains a priority for the Summit County government and its constituents.
“I think this will go a long way in building our resilience for the future,” Neguse said.
Pogue said Summit County’s water infrastructure also needed upgrading, which Neguse advocated. He pointed to an additional $300 million item in the infrastructure bill for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to help protect local water supplies to further support fire recovery work.
“We know a lot of our water districts have huge infrastructure upgrade needs as they age, so I would say that’s another big need for Summit County,” Pogue said. .
Neguse also said the infrastructure program extending the rural schools program — which sent the Summit School District $891,110 in funding in 2019 — is essential.
“It’s really a critical source of revenue for school districts in this part of our community,” Neguse said.