LOVELAND — Transportation wasn’t a big issue in the 2014 Colorado legislative session, but northern Colorado legislators are already talking about its importance in the 2015 session.
Gearing their talk toward the expansion of Interstate 25 to help alleviate future traffic concerns in northern Colorado all the way north to Colo. 14, Republicans and Democrats agreed that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed as they spoke at the 2014 Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance legislative wrap-up breakfast Friday at the Embassy Suites Conference Center.
The event also featured discussions on the latest session that ended Wednesday with issues highlighting flood-related relief bills and education funding for K-12 and higher ed, as well as how the latest session wasn’t as divisive between the two parties in 2014 compared to 2013 when gun laws and renewable energy legislation were controversial topics.
“It wasn’t quite as a contentious session this year as it was last year. I don’t know if we could potentially get more contentious than what we saw last year. It was pretty rough,” said Colorado House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland. “Overall, that’s not good for the people of Colorado to have a Legislature that’s basically at its throats kind of like the way it was last year.”
As far as transportation funding went, DelGrosso said he was very disappointed that he wasn’t able to talk his colleagues into putting transportation funding into the budget this year.
“I got a lecture when right before they killed the bill about how our budget is about values and principles and priorities ... and how as a state government we can’t say that transportation funding is not a priority or a value of the state of Colorado is beyond me,” DelGrosso said. “That bill was killed in appropriations. We had plenty of money to put some money in transportation. You see the significant growth here in northern Colorado, and if we don’t start addressing those issues now until we wait until it’s even a bigger problem than it already is, it’s going to make it worse and it’s going to make it more expensive in the future.”
State Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, said decisions had to be made to put more money into K-12 education, and he felt it was important to honor that, but he understands that I-25 needs to be addressed.
A total of $200 million is mandated to be spent on transportation from Senate Bill 228, but the legislators said most of that money will be targeted by the Colorado Department of Transportation to the Interstate 70 viaduct around Denver and not for I-25 expansion from Colo. 66 to Colo. 14.
“You can’t drive I-25 without knowing that we need an emphasis on northern Colorado and I-25,” Young said. “I’m committed to work on a solution for that for sure.”
State Sen. Scott Renfroe. R-Greeley, said the issue is whether just a toll lane will be added on I-25 or whether capacity will be increased by adding a free lane first and leaving the public/private partnership for the toll lane.
“I think that’s a huge question that needs to be looked at because the capacity of this road is already over capacity, and northern Colorado deserves a third free lane for traffic and then the addition of this toll lane, but that’s not the direction I believe they’re going to go,” Renfroe said. “The reason they’re not going this direction is because they’re going to spend over $2 billion on this I-70 corridor when their first budgets of what they could do this project for were about $500 to $700 million. They’re looking to do it in a Taj Mahal way. They’re going to put open space and parks and it’s supposed to be a signature thing for the governor through Denver on I-70, and that’s where all the money from the state is going because they pulled it all back from every region and they’ve taken authority away from the regions to spend the money and they’re going to put it on I-70 and Denver and we’re not going to get it. You’re going to get just a toll lane that’s going to take three people like U.S. 36 to ride the toll lane as an HOV, or you’re going to pay a pretty hefty amount to ride on that road which I think is going to damage northern Colorado and our economic growth if you do it only as a toll lane.”
“It wasn’t quite as a contentious session this year as it was last year. I don’t know if we could potentially get more contentious than what we saw last year. It was pretty rough.
R-Loveland and House Minority Leader