Sen. Bennet inspects Glenwood Canyon to determine additional federal resources needed

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Se. Michael Bennet tours Glenwood Canyon (photo courtesy of Sen. Michael Bennet’s office)

GLENWOOD CANYON, Colo. (KDVR) — Just a day after the Colorado Department of Transportation partially reopened Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and local leaders toured the infrastructure damage and impact to the Colorado River the mudslides caused.

“This iconic canyon is a critical transportation corridor that connects Colorado from east to west. It’s vital for our economy and way of life,” Bennet said. “We must continue to come together at the local, state, and federal levels to secure the funding and resources to repair the highway infrastructure and the watershed, protect Glenwood Springs’ water supply, support the local communities, and minimize damage from future landslides and debris flows.” 

While CDOT crews and engineers have made progress with repairs and structural additions to prevent damage from future mudslides, Bennet assessed the area to determine what additional federal resources will be needed.

“We are grateful for Sen. Bennet’s commitment to the state’s needs in Glenwood Canyon, including the remaining permanent repairs and long term resiliency needs,” CDOT’s Executive Director Shoshana Lew said. “The quick and full commitment of support from our congressional delegation has been critical to securing the federal support Colorado needs to handle this response and keep its other commitments.

Governor Jared Polis and Lew requested $116 million in funding in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and FHWA Acting Administrator Stephanie Pollack, while Bennet and Sen. John Hickenlooper led the Colorado Congressional Delegation urging the Biden Administration to approve and expedite the request.

What funding has the state received so far?

The Federal Highway Administration said Colorado will receive $11.6 million, or 10% of the total requested, through its quick-release process, after receiving the request for funds.

Officials broke down what the full $116 million is allotted for and what it will be used for:

  • Debris removal costs (includes maintenance staff costs) = $4 million
  • Supplemental traffic control services (contractor) costs = $1 million
  • Potential geohazard mitigation at several locations = $5 million
  • CDOT administration (non-maintenance staff) costs = $1 million (bleeds into medium as well)
  • Impacts to existing state highway alternate routes (as a result of I-70 closure) costs = $10 million
  • Visible damage estimates caused by event damage or debris removal hauling costs = $20 million
  • Assumed damage repair estimates (nonvisible) costs = $20 million
  • Construction management and construction engineering costs = $5 million
  • Future resiliency and redundancy study and construction costs = $50 million

CDOT said plenty of work remains to return the interstate to its original state, something that may not happen until Thanksgiving. 

“In an effort to get that highway reopen, we went with doing the temporary repairs so we could get traffic moving,” CDOT’s Communications Manager Tracy Trulove said. “It will take us several months to work on the longer permanent repairs.”

What long-term goals do Colorado’s lawmakers want in place?

Bennet and Hickenlooper support a $1 trillion infrastructure bill approved by the Senate designed to uphold and correct everything from roads and highways to broadband and water systems. The bill’s future in the House is uncertain.

“It’s $550 billion of new money, of newly authorized spending that goes towards infrastructure that this country desperately needs,” Hickenlooper said.

Colorado’s senators estimate around $50 billion will go towards the consequences of climate change.

“Glenwood Springs has experienced more than our share of climate change-related events over the last several years. From 500 year storms to the Grizzly Creek Fire, the mountain communities of Colorado are in peril,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “We need to address both the symptoms, and the cause, of climate change, and this starts with a workforce that is trained and focused on the task of transforming to a clean energy economy. Glenwood Springs stands with Senator Bennet in his call for strong climate action as we continue to address our infrastructure needs.”

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