Politicians celebrate federal disaster relief to rebuild roads, bridges

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DENVER -- Less than a week since the end of a 16-day government shutdown and a near economic disaster that was narrowly averted, just about 10 percent of the country approves of Congress as a whole.

But in Colorado, politicians aren't hiding from voters; on Monday, much to the contrary, many of them gathered for a victory lap of sorts.

As much as the prolonged impasse in Washington writ large all the problems plaguing our democracy, the ultimate resolution actually delivered something to Colorado that's worth celebrating -- and sorely needed.

Included in the final legislation that ended the shutdown, as FOX31 Denver first reported last week, is legislation sponsored by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, that raised a cap on federal disaster relief dollars available to victims of last month's catastrophic flooding from $100 million to $450 million.

Both senators, along with Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, who sponsored similar legislation in the House, and Gov. John Hickenlooper gathered along Highway 72 in Coal Creek Canyon to tout the benefit of the additional federal dollars as the state begins to rebuild its devastated infrastructure.

"These new funds will allow state and local road repair to happen even faster," Hickenlooper said. "This is a critical step for helping to rebuild our communities. We want to thank Colorado’s delegation for working together, across party lines, to increase the Federal Highways Administration Emergency Relief Program cap."

More than 200 Colorado highway lane miles are in need of mending as a result of the floods last month, some of them serving as the only access in and out of small mountain communities.

CDOT has estimated that it'll cost $450 million to complete all the necessary repairs and rebuilding projects; that's why the legislation sets the new cap at that number.

"Because of this momentous win, Colorado will be able to reconnect communities literally marooned by the flood — and re-forge the links between Main Street businesses in places like Jamestown and Lyons and the Front Range," said Udall.

At Monday's press conference, Democrats and Republicans alike took the opportunity to highlight this bipartisan accomplishment, even at a time when the partisan seemingly couldn't get much wider.

"In Colorado, we know how to work together. Community leaders, local elected officials, businesses, and non-profit groups from across the state have come together to assist in recovery efforts and have set an example of cooperation and generosity we all should follow," Bennet said.

"Our Congressional delegation is no different. We know how to come together in times of crisis to put our state first, and petty political differences last.  That’s how we were able to collaborate across party lines and across chambers of Congress to remove this roadblock on emergency transportation funding and ensure that these communities receive the resources they need to rebuild stronger than before."

"In times such as these, when political gridlock seems to paralyze Washington to the core, I am honored to work with my Colorado Congressional colleagues to do the job that Coloradans expect us to do," Gardner said.

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