Tossing Dirt: An Additional Lane for I-25
Yesterday was a red letter day for Northern Colorado with the groundbreaking ceremony for an additional lane each way on Interstate 25 between Highway 14 (Mulberry) in Fort Collins and Highway 402 on the south edge of Loveland.
The ceremony was at the south end of park and ride at the southwest corner of I-25 and Highway 402. It was in the shadow of the growing mountain of gravel being moved from the Big Thompson Canyon that is being staged for the work on the interstate.
The big luminaries were there: Governor Hickenlooper, Senator Bennet, and a cast of state, local, and transportation officials.
I was asked to speak on behalf of the business community. While waiting to do so, I couldn’t help but think back to where we’ve come over the past 5 years. In addition to my self-reflection, several of the speakers poked a little fun at me for the bull-in-the-china shop verve I brought to the conversation 5 years ago.
It’s true! Being told this would get done in 50 years or so seemed like a great thing to get worked up about, and I did! But I was in good company and on solid ground because the business community found it equally unacceptable.
What followed has been the most amazing regional partnership I’ve experienced in 4 decades of community service. Local county government and town and city officials organized a group called the I-25 Coalition. The business community under the aegis of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance (ncla.biz) and largely funded by investors of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce stood up a group called the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance. The government group provided coordination and official sanction. And, the local communities contributed $55 million of their funds to North I-25 work.
The business group led the lobbying effort and communications.
The result was irresistible to CDOT leaders. It was only logical to move in behind an area of the state that was fully united and bringing resources to the table.
Five years later, $590 million has been spent on or committed to North I-25. A nice start on the $1.7 billion project to get to full buildout.
It’s almost impossible to appropriately thank everybody involved. At the head of the list is Johnny Olson, CDOT Region 4 Director. He has been creative and aggressive in advocating for this project. Many local leaders deserve recognition but let me mention Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly, and Weld County Commissioners Barbara Kirkmeyer and Sean Conway, Fort Collins Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak, and Johnstown Mayor Scott James.
Our Governor-appointed Transportation Commissioner is Kathy Gilliland, who was a great advocate with the Transportation Commission as was Don Marostica with the High Performance Transportation Enterprise Board.
The Board of the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance (NCLA) provided the business leadership for this effort and has spent a lot of time on this issue. NCLA is made up of the Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland chambers of commerce, Upstate Colorado, and OneNOCO. They founded the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance. The funding largely came from the 100 investors from the Fort Collins Chambers’ Northern Colorado Prospers 5-Year Key Strategic Initiative chaired by Kevin Unger of UCHealth.
Members of the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance Steering Committee include: Barbara Koelzer with IRES, Carl Maxey of MGS Inc., Pete Gazlay with Total Facility Care, Bill Becker and Mindy McCloughan of the Loveland Chamber, Brian DelGross of Dominos, Rich Werner with Upstate Colorado, David May and Ann Hutchison with the Fort Collins Chamber, Steve Tool, Tom Norton, Sarah MacQuiddy of the Greeley Chamber, Sandra Solin of Capitol Solutions, and Robert Schutzius of Anadarko. They have put in a large amount of work on this project on behalf of Northern Colorado.
Special thanks to Sandra Solin of Capitol Solutions. She has been the center of all of this keeping people connected, providing political insight, doing policy analysis, and leading the lobbying and communications efforts.
So, now, this work takes place over the next several construction seasons with work on the additional lane each way due to be done in early 2022.
A key thing to remember while we’re celebrating this milestone is that this project will not be complete until there are four lanes in each direction between Fort Collins and Denver along with a mass transit option. We still have a lot of work in front of us.
But for the moment, we’ll just bask in the accomplishment of getting an additional lane each way years before expected (though too long after it was needed)!