Udall wants $4.4 billion to improve roads | SummitDaily.com

Udall wants $4.4 billion to improve roads

SUMMIT COUNTY – U.S. Rep. Mark Udall is seeking $4.4 billion in federal funds for highway improvements – including $2.5 billion for work on I-70 between Clear Creek and Eagle counties.

Wednesday, the Colorado Democrat asked lawmakers in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for the funds under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, a bill that will be a blueprint for federal transportation funding for the next five years.

“The needs we have in Colorado are very great because of the growth we’ve experienced,” Udall press secretary Lawrence Pacheco said. “Mark thinks the members of the committee will understand that and authorize the money for these projects. He’s continuing to press forward to make sure the Second Congressional District gets its fair share of federal dollars.”

The remaining funds would be spent on 12 other projects in the Second Congressional District, notably along Highway 36 between Golden and Boulder.

“Interstate 70 west into Colorado’s mountain communities and resorts is a critical commerce corridor and is in serious need of upgrades,” he said. “I hope the committee will include these projects to alleviate the congestion that years of growth has created in Colorado.”

The $2.5 billion in federal funds he seeks for I-70 would enable the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to work toward implementing one of the alternatives outlined in its Programmatic Environmental Impact Study (PEIS). All of them involve boring a third tunnel near the Eisenhower Tunnel. The PEIS has yet to determine if that tunnel would be used for more lanes of traffic, mass transit or some kind of a fixed-guideway system.

According to PEIS project manager Cecelia Joy, CDOT officials will choose an alternative that will serve the needs of drivers and commerce on the I-70 corridor for the long term.

Local elected officials, however, wonder how that is possible, especially in light of Colorado’s rapid growth and the length of time it would take to do the work on the interstate, particularly construction of a third bore.

“As the state has grown and the traffic has exceeded the highway’s capacity, not much has been done to either increase the capacity or find new ways of safely and effectively moving people and commerce,” Udall told lawmakers. “The overloading of this highway corridor has hurt Colorado’s tourism industry, made it less safe and, at times, caused the highway to close down.”

Under Udall’s proposal, the remaining funds would be spent on road improvements, commuter rail, high occupancy vehicle and bus rapid transit lanes on Highway 36, work on various U.S. 36 interchanges; an RTD bus maintenance facility in Denver; and acquiring railroad rights of way for RTD’s FasTrack expansion.

Funds also would be used to improve Highway 40 from north Winter Park to Berthoud Pass, the Roaring Fork Transit Authority’s bus rapid transit project; a transit village in Boulder; bike lanes and sidewalks on Colorado Avenue in Boulder; a fixed-guideway feasibility study from Golden to Black Hawk and Central City; and a shuttle for FlatIrons shopping district employees.

“The funding is critical to Colorado’s economy,” Udall said. “It will create jobs and address challenges that our state faces as a result of a decade of tremendous growth in the northwest Denver suburbs and mountain and resort communities.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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