“Let’s fix the roads”: Colorado leaders hail passage of infrastructure bill

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Posted at 10:44 AM, Nov 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-06 14:57:19-04

DENVER — Colorado leaders hailed the passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure package as more details as to what it will mean for the state comes to light. But not everyone was in a celebratory mood.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with bipartisan support late Friday.

According to the White House, Colorado should expect to receive $3.7 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs over the next five years.

Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement the bill is a “win” for the state.

“Let’s fix the roads and reduce traffic! This is a win for our country and a win for Colorado! I’m thrilled that Congress has passed with bipartisan support this once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our roads, create new jobs, improve our drinking water, and tackle climate change,” Polis said in a statement. “Paired with our state’s historic bipartisan infrastructure plan that I signed this summer, Colorado will see a transformation across all four corners of our state to make our roads safer and better for all Coloradans. Thank you, President Biden and Congress for your bipartisan work to bring real change across our country’s entire infrastructure system.”

Polis said the passage of the federal bill, along with a transportation bill the governor signed into law earlier this year, will create a “dynamic, 21st Century transportation system” that will drive economic recovery in the state.

Colorado U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper celebrated the passage of the bill and called it “American democracy at its best.”

“We’ve just passed the biggest climate bill in U.S. history and the biggest infrastructure investment since the New Deal,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “While there’s more to come, today America showed we can work together.”

The Democrat and former governor authored some provisions in the bill, including provisions on electric vehicles, broadband, RTD and marijuana research.

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet called the passage an historic investment in the nation’s infrastructure. But the Democrat said the work isn’t done.

“Today’s House vote moves us one step closer to a transformational investment in our infrastructure. For years, Washington has talked about coming together to rebuild America. This bill finally achieves it with a historic, bipartisan investment in the roads, bridges, airports, water systems, and high-speed broadband America needs to compete in the 21st century,” Bennet said in a statement. “But our work isn’t finished. We must also pass new investments to support kids and families, fight climate change, restore our Western forests and watersheds, and expand access to health care. At a time when many people have lost faith in Washington, we can remind Americans that our government can respond meaningfully to their urgent challenges.”

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Lakewood) voted for the bill and said the passage will have an immediate effect on communities in Colorado.

“This infrastructure package will provide immediate and significant investment in local communities in Colorado through reauthorization of our surface transportation programs supporting roads, bridges and transit and prioritize other infrastructure needs that are long overdue such as broadband access, improved reliability of our water infrastructure, and an investment in clean energy transportation initiatives,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “I’m particularly proud this bill allows for the construction of a new USGS building to support the important work of researchers and scientists in Colorado. This is one of the many examples of the important benefits this bill will provide for our community and communities across the country.”

Congressman Joe Neguse, the Democrat who represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, praised the investments in wildfire management and climate resiliency the act will provide.

“As communities across Colorado face more frequent and more severe climate-related weather events— such as the record-setting wildfires and terrible flash flooding we’ve witnessed this past year— it’s more clear than ever that we need to make major investments in our lands, our forests and our communities,” Neguse said in a statement. “For the last year we’ve been calling on Congress to robustly address the threat of catastrophic wildfire and fund climate resilient infrastructure. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which passed the House last night, we are delivering on several of these key priorities for Colorado. Included in the bill are our proposals to make major investments in wildfire prevention and collaborative forest programs, upgrade our power grid and reauthorize the secure rural schools program, providing essential funds to Colorado schools. These investments will have a tangible impact on our Colorado communities and it was critical to get them into the hands of our families and communities.”

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) said the legislation would, among other things, lower health care and childcare costs for millions of families.

“These two pieces of legislation, combined, represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally transform our nation for the better,” DeGette said in a statement. “They will not only lay the foundation for us to grow our economy and increase our competitiveness, but they will also create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. They will make health care and child care more affordable for millions of hardworking families. They will make housing and higher education more accessible, and they will be the largest investment we have ever made to lower our greenhouse emissions and help tackle the climate crisis.”

But not everyone was in support of the bill. Republican U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn called it a “massive spending spree” and said Democrats were relying on “gimmicks and fake offsets” to help pay for it.

“Today’s “infrastructure” bill is bloated and aims to make a variety of progressive wish list items part of federal policy. While it is true that we to need to address many forms of infrastructure, such as replacing aging roads and bridges, strengthening our electrical grid, and expanding access to broadband, I could not support legislation that spends so little on traditional infrastructure. Instead, this legislation focuses primarily on pushing the Green New Deal and increasing the size and scope of the federal government. The Democrats failed to address the issues that matter to the American people, such as the southern border crisis, the growing supply chain shortages, or the labor crisis. After a month full of inactivity, it is apparent, the Democratic caucus is truly in disarray,” Lamborn said in a statement.

President Joe Biden hailed the passage as a “monumental step forward for the nation."

Approval of the bill sends it to the desk of the president whose approval ratings have dropped and whose party got a cold shoulder from voters in this past week’s off-year elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report