There’s a list in circulation of 5o major projects that might get funded by President Donald Trump’s big infrastructure package, and two Colorado projects are on it.
- Completing the westbound portion of the I-70 Mountain Corridor Express Lanes from Empire to Idaho Springs. This involves upgrading the shoulder so that it can be used as a third travel lane during peak times, as drivers have been able to do coming back to the Front Range since 2015. The cost for the 13-mile section is estimated at $1 billion in the document, though the eastbound section only cost $96.6 million, $24.6 million of which is a loan being repaid with tolls.
- Widening I-25 from Monument to Castle Rock. This project is a top priority for CDOT, and the state is expediting environmental review and planning efforts. However, the project is still short a lot of money.
McClatchy was the first to publish the list, which the National Governors Association said was shared with them by the Trump transition team. (The administration in turn says it is not their list, but the governors association reiterated that it is.) Another nearly identical list, with the projects identified as public-private partnerships, is circulating in business and congressional circles, McClatchy said.
Matt Kroschel from Denver’s CBS4 touched based with CDOT and confirmed that the department has submitted the two projects to the Trump administration for consideration.
Trump campaigned on a promise to invest $1 trillion in America’s aging infrastructure and in the process stimulate the economy and create lots of construction jobs. This is one area that had seemed likely to produce strange political bedfellows, as fiscal conservatives are wary of adding to the deficit with a major spending plan while some Democrats were interested in cooperating with the administration on such an effort.
Trump has proposed using tax credits to encourage public-private partnerships and said this plan would pay for itself.
The problem with public-private partnerships is that you don’t find a lot of interest from the private sector unless a project can generate tolls or user fees. That only applies to some types of infrastructure projects. Fortunately for Colorado — if unfortunately for drivers — roads are one of them.
The Democrats have their own infrastructure spending proposal, and as Politico reported recently, the two sides are very far apart. Democrats want to build on existing government programs and include money for things like clean energy tax breaks that are a non-starter with Republicans. How they would pay for this isn’t clear yet.
But it’s not surprising that Colorado would try to get its share of whatever plan does move forward. The state has struggled with its own partisan gridlock over how to pay for transportation needs, and CDOT has an estimated $9 billion in unfunded needs over the next 10 years.
Democrats and Republicans have pledged that this is the year they’ll do something about funding at the state level, and voters might very well see a new sales tax on the ballot this November. But there are still plenty of political hurdles to get through first.