DENVER (CBS4) – There’s a money grab for transportation funds in Colorado’s young legislative session.
Almost everyone agrees that Colorado’s roads and bridges are in bad shape. Now some state lawmakers say President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that could help fix them for less time and money.
What the order does is fast track certain major infrastructure projects by streamlining the environmental review process. A half dozen House Republicans sent a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday urging him to take advantage of it for projects like the Interstate 25 south corridor and the I-70 expansion.
The executive order allows a governor to request that a project be designated as a “national priority,” which would trigger the expedited review with specific deadlines.
Trump says the current approval process routinely involves excessive delays.
House Republicans reminded Hickenlooper that he told them to “examine all options” for transportation funding in his State of the State address. They say an expedited review could be one option and would save Colorado potentially millions of dollars.
“I first started talking about I-25 in this conversation about three years ago. CDOT was saying at that point — probably $200 million to do this road. The number now is $270 million to $590 million, and it’s only been a matter of a couple years,” said Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument. “Delay is not only dangerous for the people of Colorado, but expensive to the people of Colorado. We’ve got to push this forward now.”
The governor’s office told CBS4 he’s examining the new federal directive and potential options.
Environmentalists say it’s a bad idea. Dan Grossman with the Environmental Defense Fund says thorough review and planning is critical, not just to reveal and mitigate environmental impacts, but to ensure taxpayer money is being spent wisely and efficiently.
Pete Maysmith with Conservation Colorado said, “It’s also an important way for citizens to comment on federal projects” and says an expedited review could “hamstring our right to make our voices heard.”
The president’s executive order says the reviews will continue to respect property rights and protect public safety and the environment.