Colorado transportation officials soon will consider spending plans for the first blast of money from a major long-term funding bill approved by lawmakers — and they include $50 million in long-needed repairs and upgrades for the Eisenhower Tunnel.
The $238 million spending proposal, provided to The Denver Post ahead of its unveiling Friday, would repave major stretches of Interstate 25 in Colorado Springs and Interstate 76 near Sterling, along with tackling road safety improvements in several regions of the state. The Colorado Department of Transportation also proposes more money for its network of “mobility hubs” — which enable transit connections — along I-25 north of Denver.
CDOT also wants to expand its Bustang intercity bus service, buying more buses to add frequency on its west and north routes and extending service to Pueblo and Greeley.
For the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels, which take Interstate 70 beneath the Continental Divide, the plan would pay for the most pressing projects on a roughly $150 million repair backlog. At the top is improving the system that collects and treats groundwater that seeps into the tunnels from the mountain above.
The Post detailed the extensive maintenance needs at those twin bores, the oldest of which is nearing 50 years old, in March.
“This $50 million is a good downpayment on some of the most critical things that I think we’re looking at,” said Steve Harelson, CDOT’s chief engineer.
The spending is partly enabled by upfront money included in Senate Bill 260, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law last month. That $5.4 billion bill aims to fix highways, expand transit options across the state and supercharge the state’s adoption of electric vehicles as it tries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on its roads.
CDOT’s proposal “tackles a set of projects across the state … that really makes a dent in the areas of priority that that bill brought to the forefront,” CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew said. “It’s projects from the 10-year plan, and they’re projects selected with a lot of care,” she added, both to spread the impact across the state and to address transit needs in addition to roads.
Most of the money projected to be raised by SB-260 over the next 11 years would come from a new set of road-user fees, including on gas purchases, deliveries, and Uber and Lyft rides. But those fees don’t take effect for another year.
CDOT’s new proposal draws on $170 million in pandemic stimulus money allocated by the bill. The rest, $68.4 million, comes from excess value generated off the state’s recent issuance of a new round of debt allowed by an earlier legislative funding package.
CDOT officials will present their plan to a statewide advisory committee Friday and then to the Colorado Transportation Commission next week. The commission could consider it then or at its mid-August meeting.
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