New White House infrastructure plan includes billions of dollars for Colorado highways.Despite the partisan back and forth in Washington after last year’s heated election, one area ripe for compromise seems to be an infrastructure plan. On issues like trade and infrastructure, President Donald Trump aligns more with Democrats than he does with conservatives in his own party. This has left Democrats like Bernie Sanders (VT) and Chuck Schumer (NY) eager to work with Trump on a spending bill. While Democrats propose a $1 Trillion spending plan, the White House is planning to start off with a relatively modest $137 Billion development goal. Over the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown issued a mandatory evacuation order for those living in and around Northern California’s Oroville Dam. More than 200,000 people have been evacuated as emergency workers brace for the dam to fail. In light of this development, infrastructure investment will likely become Congress’ focus. A draft proposal of Trump’s infrastructure spending plan has been making the rounds on the Internet. Two of the projects included in the plan would overhaul Colorado’s Interstate Highways. Colorado’s I-70 Mountain Corridor The first Colorado infrastructure project on the list is a 13-mile stretch of highway on I-70. This upgrade has been on Colorado politicians’ wish list for years. Estimated to cost $1 billion, the plan would widen this stretch of highway going through the mountains and add a dedicated express lane. This additional lane would help to ease congestion during peak travel times, like during the winter ski season. The White House insists that any infrastructure plan to come out of Congress must include private investments. This will alleviate much of the upfront cost to taxpayers. If the I-70 express lane becomes a tolled road, similar to parts of I-25 North of Denver, it would be a prime candidate for private investment money. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has already received completed environmental impact studies, meaning that the project just needs the funding to move forward. I-25 Between Castle Rock and Monument This week, CDOT reached out to the Trump administration and asked for funding to expand the segment of I-25 between Castle Rock and Monument. Given the huge commercial and real estate development taking place in the Denver metro area, a two lane highway is insufficient to handle the traffic traveling along this corridor. It is also a serious safety issue. In just a little over a year, two police officers were struck and killed by passing motorists on I-25, south of Castle Rock. Incoming Douglas County Commissioner, Lora Thomas, has proposed redirecting 43% of the county’s sales tax revenue to fund the I-25 expansion project. This doesn’t sit well with many residents who question why they should pay to widen a Federal Interstate Highway. Instead of taxing local residents, many are now pointing to the Trump infrastructure project as a perfect way to get the project funded. The I-25 expansion project is one of 50 projects listed in the administration’s initial $137 billion infrastructure plan. The White House predicts that the project will cost $1 billion and create 1,000 construction jobs. What this means for you Obviously, if you travel the I-70 mountain corridor or routinely drive between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, you know that these highway expansion projects are long overdue. Having these projects receive federal and private investment funding will take the cost off of Coloradans directly and let construction begin sooner. However, it is unclear at this point how much these projects will cost drivers down the line. This is especially true if private investment is used. It is important to remember that CDOT has been talking about these highway projects for years. More than 100,000 people move to the Denver metro area every year. These highway systems were never designed to accommodate such a large and growing population. This fact creates legitimate environmental and safety concerns. Can Colorado afford to slow-walk these projects given how quickly the state’s population is growing? Many argue that federal or private investment under President Trump’s infrastructure plan would be too valuable to pass up. It remains to be seen whether Coloradans will warm up to Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan. However, any Colorado traveler would be remiss if they dismissed the plan simply out of opposition to the Trump Presidency.
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