LOVELAND, Colo. - Calling I-25 the economic lifeblood of Colorado, members of the North I-25 Coalition say it’s time Congress came up with a long term funding fix for transportation, so the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) can speed up the planned widening of the highway between Longmont and Fort Collins.
Without that fix, it could take decades to finish the project.
“We’ve got the number one ag producing county in the state and the number one energy producing county in the state,” said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, chairwoman of the coalition. “We have to move freight. It’s about jobs. It’s about our workforce. It’s about our economy.”
Kirkmeyer said communities along the North I-25 corridor have seen a growth rate averaging 425 percent over the last 20 years, and that over the next 20 years the area will be home to 1.5 million people.
“Can you imagine how we’re going to deal with that, with a two lane (in each direction) highway,” she said.
By mid-afternoon Friday, traffic was already backing up on I-25 near the Highway 34 exit. Much of it was truck traffic.
“Eight-five hundred trucks a day use this highway between Cheyenne and Denver,” said Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, head of the Northern Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization (NFMPO).
NFMPO has been working diligently with U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner so that when Congress gets around to funding transportation long term, Colorado will have a good shot at getting money to expand I-25.
Bennet said the Senate has come up with a plan for long-term funding.
“It’s not a perfect bill,” he said, “but we can work with the House and the President to find something that works.”
When asked why it’s so difficult for Congress to fund transportation, Bennet replied that it wasn’t in the past.
He said years ago, members on both sides of the aisle looked at transportation as a job generator.
“Now,” he says, “there is a group of people back there, not a lot, but enough to make it hard to do, who simply don’t think the federal government should be involved at all in infrastructure. That’s a philosophical point of view.”
Northern Colorado business owner Carl Maxey says I-25 is the “Main Street” of Colorado.
“In my opinion,” he said, “the business community is saying ‘enough is enough.’ CDOT, nor the State Legislature are doing the citizens of the entire state any justice by saying, ‘we don’t have a funding plan.’ We’re holding them accountable. Let’s get the funding handled.”
Bennet said it’s a shame that Colorado couldn’t move forward with this project, while interest rates were low.
“Every single road and bridge we didn’t build over the last six years at these interest rates is infrastructure that is going to become more expensive to fix later,” he said.
Maxey said Colorado taxpayers may have to step forward.
He says if they don’t, “Status quo is what they’ll get and it will get worse based on the growth projections, not just in Northern Colorado but around the entire state.”