WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Colorado is set to receive $225 million in funding from the federal government to help with bridge repairs and replacements across the state.
Last week, the Federal Highway Administration announced its new Bridge Formula Program, which will dedicate $26.5 billion to states.
“This will be the biggest investment that we've made in the infrastructure in generations in this country,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
In Colorado, roughly 481 bridges are listed in "poor" condition, and another 5,000 are in "fair" condition but need preserving, according to federal data.
“We have had a significant backlog in terms of the needs for bridge repair,” said Andrew Goetz, a professor at the University of Denver who specializes in transportation. “In some cases, there are only some minor repairs that need to be done. In a lot of cases, there are some major structural repairs.”
On Monday, Bennet, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, the Colorado Department of Transportation and local officials toured some of the bridges along I-70 to see the types of repairs that are needed.
“People don't realize it, but these structures are deteriorating and deteriorating rapidly," said Bob Yost, CDOT’s Region 1 West resident engineer. "They're over 50 years old, they were designed to a 50-year lifespan.”
Bridge repairs and replacements do not come cheap. The I-70 bridges at Ward need to be replaced in both directions. This project is estimated to cost roughly $27 million in total, but state funding has already been identified for that.
“You're looking at $20 million per set of bridges, at least at a minimum," said Yost. "So when you, if you multiply that out by 61 bridges, or whatever the case may be, and that’s just here in region one, $225 million doesn't go very far."
The state has also been working aggressively over the past few years to fund transportation infrastructure projects. Still, the list of needed repairs, expansions and replacements is long.
“We just have got to keep pushing, we’ve got to keep going," Bennet said. "CDOT has got a great 10-year plan, and I'm really glad that federal government is coming forward, finally, in a bipartisan way, with a really substantial amount of resources to help move ahead."
Yost is hoping to make the money go further by bundling projects together.
“If you can bundle projects, you're going to save money and you're going to save time in how long you're out there during construction,” he said.
It will be up to CDOT, state and local officials to work together to prioritize which bridges need the funding first.