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Polis seeks $116 million in federal highway funds to fix I-70 through Glenwood Canyon

August 9, 2021, 4:39 pm

The office of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued the following press release Monday outlining a request for $116 million in Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief funding to repair damaged sections of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon after mud and rockslides in the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar shut down the highway indefinitely in recent weeks:

Gov. Jared Polis
Gov. Jared Polis

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Polis administration is seeking $116 million in aid through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief program to support the response to severe damage to I-70 in Glenwood Canyon caused by multiple mudslides and large debris flows. As part of the request, the state is requesting $11.6 million, or 10% of the total request, be issued in an expedited process. The request was made by Governor Jared Polis and Department of Transportation Director Shoshana Lew in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and FHWA Acting Administrator Stephanie Pollack, as well as a separate submission to the FHWA Colorado Division office. This follows the issuance of two Executive Orders from Governor Polis last week, as well as a letter from the Colorado congressional delegation on Saturday, August 7, 2021, stressing the urgency of this matter to the state.

“The ongoing closure of I-70 continues to strain people and communities throughout the region and western Colorado, and also has significant implications for interstate travel and commerce. The corridor is vital for everything from long-haul freight to movement of agricultural products across the state to the ecotourism economy. I-70 provides critical connectivity for communities in Eagle, Garfield, and Pitkin counties and serves as the state’s main east-west thoroughfare for people and commerce. While Coloradans understand the magnitude of destruction, the disruption to people’s lives and livelihoods grows as the interstate remains closed. Federal support, including quick release of funds, will greatly assist our efforts to restore functionality to the interstate and allow people to have the connectivity they rely on,” Gov. Polis and Director Lew wrote to Secretary Buttigieg and Acting Administrator Pollack.

The funding request notes that this figure is an estimate made as debris removal efforts and damage assessments are still ongoing. CDOT expects to update these assessments and funding requests in the next 8 to 10 weeks. The request for federal emergency funding also includes funding to study and construct safety improvements to alternate routes to Glenwood Canyon, as previewed in CDOT testimony before the Transportation Legislative Review Committee last week.

“The ongoing vulnerability due to the severe erosion described above will likely require improvements to diversion routes such as Cottonwood Pass to be able to withstand heavier traffic in the future while providing resiliency,” the letter continues.  “Prior estimates concluded that improvements to Cottonwood Pass are upwards of $50 million of which has been carried forward in the estimates below, subject to further assessment which could increase this number.” 

The funding request breaks down several high-level categories:

  • Debris removal costs (includes maintenance staff costs) = $4 million
  • Impacts to existing State Highway alternate routes (as a result of I-70 closure) costs = $10 million
  • Supplemental traffic control services (contractor) costs = $1 million
  • Visible damage estimates caused by event damage or debris removal hauling costs = $20 million
  • Assumed damage repair estimates (non-visible) costs = $20 million
  • Potential geohazard mitigation at several locations = $5 million
  • Construction Management and Construction Engineering costs = $5 million
  • Future Resiliency & Redundancy Study costs = $50 million
  • CDOT administration (non-maintenance staff) costs = $1 million

Here is Gov. Polis and Director Lew’s letter to Secretary Buttigieg and Acting Administrator Pollack and CDOT’s submissions to the FHWA Colorado Division

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