Colorado's Congressional delegation gets Federal Highway Administration to lift $100 million cap

CDOT may need $300-$500 million in emergency aid

DENVER - Hundreds of millions in emergency federal highway money will be coming to Colorado.

Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, told 7NEWS that the Colorado Congressional delegation was successful in getting the House Appropriations chairman to lift the $100 million Federal Highway Administration emergency relief funding cap.

"I'm excited that he's given us that promise to do that, to provide the emergency dollars that we need and get that statutory cap lifted as has been done in the past for other disasters," said Gardner.

The cap was lifted and increased to $500 million following Superstorm Sandy last fall.

Gardner said the Colorado Department of Transportation may need $300-$500 million to repair highways damaged by the flooding.

"We feel confident that if we lift this statutory cap, there will be enough money to deal with the emergency transportation needs," said Gardner.

This isn't the first time Gardner has asked for emergency money. In January, Gardner and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, asked Congress for $125 million in emergency watershed protection following the state's wildfires in 2012.

Gardner had already voted in favor of $17 billion in emergency aid for Superstorm Sandy. Before that bill was finalized, $33 billion in additional funds for pet projects were added to the Sandy bill. When Colorado's request was denied, Gardner voted against the emergency aid bill.

"I supported the Sandy package initially, and of course, when the secondary supplemental came through, I opposed it because they refused to put money for Colorado in it," said Gardner. "I was so frustrated this spring, when we had a chance to provide Coloradans disaster aid, just like we were to other parts of the country that had suffered, and of course, Colorado was treated differently."

Gardner provided eerie testimony in January, when he sought support of his $125 million request.

"Any moisture event, whether it's a half inch of rain, an inch of rain, is going to create debris flows, erosion flows and mudslides that will clog culverts, destroy roads and certainly imperil the watershed and drinking water systems," said Gardner on January 14. "Once those debris flows occur, and we're talking about a debris flow that will be the equivalent of 100-year storm, the equivalent run off and debris flow of a 100-year storm will now be occurring every five-to-10 years."

He also warned about wanting to get ahead of disasters and not relying on FEMA to clean up a mess.

"They will provide grants and money to mitigate after the fact, to help the drinking water system after the damage has occurred, but this is actually trying to help prevent the damage before it occurs," said Gardner on January 14.

The emergency wildfire funding was not included in the Superstorm Sandy bill, but was passed after the fact.

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