Roberts: How the bipartisan infrastructure bills help us
Here’s some great news: Substantial and badly-needed investment in our state’s infrastructure, broadband and water needs are coming our way thanks to bipartisan infrastructure bills passing both in Washington, D.C., and at the state Capitol in Denver. Both of these bills are going to improve our commutes and road safety, invest in our water resources and bolster the economy here in our mountain communities.
Bipartisan agreement on investing in our transportation and infrastructure has eluded both the state legislature and the United States Congress for decades, but this year, that changed. In June, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law SB21-260 — The Sustainability of Colorado’s Transportation System Act — which I supported because of its immense benefit for Eagle County. Then, Monday, President Biden signed into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Both of these bills had broad bipartisan support, because thankfully, even in our divided times, we can still agree on a few things — like the need to invest in better roads, accessible broadband and managing our water resources.
Here’s what both of these bills will mean for us here in Colorado :
- $3.7 billion towards improving our highways, which will fund projects to reduce I-70 traffic, fund local transportation projects and upgrades to our rural highways
- $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs
- $688 million over five years to improve our water infrastructure, which could not be more crucial right now as Colorado faces historic drought and increasing downstream demands for our water
- $100 million to help expand broadband across the state so that you can learn, operate a business and stay connected no matter what your zip code is
- $35 million to protect against wildfires so that we can keep our communities safe and our surrounding environment healthy
- Expanding the successful Revitalizing Main Streets program, which allows towns to implement innovative enhancements that make their downtowns economically vibrant — funding for this has already been awarded to Eagle and Minturn
- Thousands of jobs created in our state in fields, such as engineering, construction and more
These are big numbers, but both bills are fully paid for and do not add to the deficit — another major achievement to be celebrated.
A reliable and robust transportation system plays a critical part in our economic well-being as a thriving mountain community. These bills are also good for working families and our local economies.
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We all know that without a reliable transportation system in and out of our communities, tourism is not possible. Nor is the ability for a small business to decide to locate their operations here if they cannot reliably move their goods. The improvements we can expect to see from their passage will directly impact our economic growth, will help create more jobs right in our communities and will go a long way toward protecting our crucial economic drivers of tourism and agriculture.
Another important aspect of the legislation is that it makes significant improvements to the contracting process and emphasizes partnership with private industry so that these projects can begin quickly. I was happy to support our efforts in the Colorado State House to reduce red tape, and it is encouraging to see Congress do the same.
So, what happens next? Now that both bills are law, state and local partners will work with the Colorado Department of Transportation and other agencies to identify road, broadband and water projects for funding. As your representative, I will be doing everything I can to ensure that our local needs are being fairly heard and that our fair share of funding is allocated to us.
There are already a few examples of local efforts that could get off the ground because of these bills, like safety improvements to Vail Pass and creating a commuter transportation system to connect our Northwest Colorado communities of Oak Creek, Steamboat, Hayden and Craig. We can also expect support coming to our region for water projects that will support both municipal and agricultural water users and help our communities manage the impacts of severe drought.
I know it is easy to become cynical about politics, and partisan bickering is more common than results. Yet, on infrastructure, Colorado and even Washington, D.C., have come together to get something done that will improve our economy and our lives. This is a promising time for Colorado.
As always, I invite you to contact me about this topic or any others. My cell is 970-846-3054, and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Dylan Roberts serves Eagle County and Routt County in the Colorado State House.