Progress Being Made on I-25

The ‘North I-25 experience’ continues to be a mixed bag of free-flowing and frustrating stop-and-slow traffic. The bad news: don’t expect that to change anytime soon. More bad news is that it will get worse over the next few years.

But, in the season of hope, let’s get to the good news.

Next spring CDOT will start two projects. The one that should provide some short-term congestion relief on I-25 is a third lane southbound from the Berthoud exit. The 2-plus mile hill is a significant chokepoint. Weather and the funding gods permitting, that lane should be done by the end of 2016.

The benefits of the second project will come in the long-term. Also starting in the spring and running two construction seasons, CDOT will widen the bridges at Crossroads. This won’t provide short-term congestion relief but will be important eventually when CDOT has the money to add the additional interstate lanes.

As I’m writing this Congress is debating passage of a 5-year federal highway bill, and it will pass. This is big for our area. Unless state officials do something remarkably unjust, a sincere amount of those dollars will be available for North I-25. Colorado’s entire Congressional delegation moved in behind this effort.

Also in the works at the federal level is an application for money to replace bridges over the Poudre, Big Thompson, Little Thompson and St. Vrain Rivers. The September 2013 floods threatened all of them. They need to be raised and widened, which can be done through federal challenge grants. The Governor’s office should know by mid-January whether Colorado will receive any or all of those funds.

Locally, the Larimer County Commission, at the behest of Commissioner Tom Donnelly, is leading an effort to establish a local fund of money with matching dollars for I-25.

The Fix North I-25 Business Alliance that I chair on behalf of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance has supported all of the above, is very active in identifying business allies around the state, and has developed a lobbying plan for the upcoming legislative session.

Regarding ally-building, businesses across Colorado are frustrated with the state of the interstate and highway system and are mobilizing to say to state officials and CDOT, ‘Fix Colorado’s Roads.’

Regarding the lobbying plan, elements include renewal of TRANS bonds (passed in 1998 and due to be retired in 2017), protecting transportation money from SB 09-228 and making the case for general fund money for transportation. Of the various funding options, the one that polls well with the public is TRANS bonds. We will be proposing that the legislature bring TRANS bonds to the 2016 ballot for voter consideration.

The final bit of good news is that Northern Colorado has its act together and is working in unison. People like Weld County Commissioners Sean Conway and Barb Kirkmeyer, Fort Collins Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak, CDOT District 4 Director Johnny Olson and dozens of other worthies are doing great work to get I-25 widened.

Knowing that may provide a scintilla of good cheer as you sit in traffic!