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Colorado Republicans vote to reject highway funding bill

Polis adds amendment to make Interstate 70 a high-priority transit corridor

November 7, 2015, 6:31 am
I-70 bottleneck

The Interstate 70 bottleneck (I-70 Coalition photo).

Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in The Colorado Statesman:

The senior Republican member of Colorado’s congressional delegation, Doug Lamborn, told The Colorado Statesman on Friday that the highway funding bill passed by the House on Thursday and lauded as a victory for new Speaker Paul Ryan is a bad deal for the country.

“Although there were many good things in the bill, the spending in the bill was not clearly defined and the full six years in the bill were not fully paid for – just the first three years – so I had some real problems on that part of the bill which caused me to vote no,” Lamborn said.

In fact, all four Colorado House Republicans voted against the $325 billion bill, which proposes spending $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on mass transit and $9 billion on safety measures over the next six years. It passed 363-64 and must be conferenced with a similar Senate version before heading to President Barack Obama’s desk before Thanksgiving.

“Secondly, I would strongly prefer we take gas tax dollars that the states collect, such as Colorado, and concentrate them on asphalt and concrete and bridges and not siphon off that money for what I consider extraneous purposes like mass transit, bicycle paths and highway landscaping,” added Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican.

Congress has not passed a long-term highway funding bill in about a decade, nor has it raised the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that funds the federal Highway Trust Fund since 1993. States have increasingly been passing their own funding measures and fuel taxes to bridge the gap.

“The states can do what they need to, but at this point I’m not favoring a federal gas tax increase,” Lamborn said, reiterating that state taxes should go to hard infrastructure projects such as bridge repairs and highway maintenance and expansion rather than bike paths and rail.

“I’m not saying those aren’t worthy projects, but let’s spend those apart from gas tax dollars,” he added. “When people go to the gas pump, they expect their dollars to go to the roads and not go off on bicycle paths, for instance. The gas tax dollars would do a lot better job of covering the needs for roads if we were able to concentrate more how they’re spent.”

All three Colorado House Democrats voted for the successful funding measure, which Ryan hailed as a prime example of the “more open process” the Wisconsin Republican brings to the House after replacing John Boehner as speaker.

Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, managed to amend the bill to designate Interstate 70 from Denver to Salt Lake City as a “Corridor of High Priority,” which would make the state eligible for certain federal maintenance and improvement funding streams along a stretch of highway Polis called “notoriously congested.”

High-priority transit corridors get special treatment when applying for grant programs like the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects, according to Polis.

“Anyone who has sat in traffic on a Sunday afternoon on I-70 east knows that highway is in need of major improvements,” Polis said in a press release. “Traffic along I-70 has far outpaced our ability to expand and maintain it, and at this point Colorado can’t do it alone.”



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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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