Briefline

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touts Biden infrastructure plan in Colorado visit

By: - February 24, 2022 5:30 pm

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at a press conference beneath Interstate 70 in Clear Creek County, Colorado on Feb. 24, 2022. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday visited one of the most notorious portions of Colorado’s Interstate 70 corridor to tout the impact of the $550 billion package of new infrastructure spending signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.

Top Colorado Democrats including Gov. Jared Polis, Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Rep. Joe Neguse joined Buttigieg beneath I-70 at Floyd Hill in Clear Creek County, where the Colorado Department of Transportation is undertaking a $700 million project that aims to improve traffic flow and safety along what has historically been a congested and hazardous stretch of the highway just east of Idaho Springs.

“Floyd Hill is an incredible pain point on I-70, both for Coloradans that are trying to get to and from the mountains, but also for everybody who’s coming across the United States of America,” said Bennet.

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Buttigieg thanked Colorado’s Democratic members of Congress for their efforts in passing last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is expected to provide more than $5 billion in funding for highways, bridges, public transit and other infrastructure projects in Colorado.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that their support for this historic, landmark legislation will directly lead to improvements in the daily commutes, the everyday life, the job opportunities and the bank accounts of every Coloradan,” Buttigieg said. “And that’s part of why we’re here to point out exactly what President Biden’s vision for building a better America looks like.”

Polis noted CDOT was able to speed up the timeline for the Floyd Hill project thanks to the combination of the congressional infrastructure bill and a state-level funding package, Senate Bill 21-260, passed by lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly last year.

“Early on, this was part of the 10-year plan,” Polis said. “Now, thanks to the resources of (SB-)260 and the federal infrastructure bill, this project begins in the next few weeks and will be completed within five years.”

It’s not an exaggeration to say that their support for this historic, landmark legislation will directly lead to improvements in the daily commutes, the everyday life, the job opportunities and the bank accounts of every Coloradan.

– Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

While Colorado Democrats have sought to tout the climate benefits of the infrastructure bill, including resiliency investments and funding for electric vehicle charging stations, many environmental activists remained concerned over the potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions caused by highway expansions nationwide.

Buttigieg said that the Department of Transportation will seek to work with state officials to consider “quality as well as quantity in transportation decisions.” His visit is scheduled to continue Friday with a tour of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, one of the country’s largest rural public transit systems.

“There are some places where it is rational to add capacity,” he said. “But there are also places that maybe have had that ‘all you have is a hammer’ attitude, and haven’t been as thoughtful about creating alternatives.”

With additional federal help on the way, CDOT officials are finalizing a new transportation-planning rule that aims to better align state and regional infrastructure projects with its targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts. A policy memo issued by the Federal Highway Administration in December also outlined ways for state-level transportation officials to pursue similar efforts.

“We’re always going to have roads and we’re always going to have cars, but it’s no longer the be-all, end-all of transportation policy,” Buttigieg added. “And I think decision-makers in Colorado have reflected that insight in their choices.”

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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