Transportation planners have big list of goals

Colorado’s transportation planners are going one step beyond simply hoping Congress and President-elect Barack Obama work out a plan next year to send billions of dollars to infrastructure projects around the country.

Russ George, director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, has assembled several lists of highway, airport and railway projects, totalling nearly $2 billion, that could begin if the federal government acts.

“We always have ongoing lists … of all kinds of projects,” George said. “We just simply took those lists and said, ‘How many could fit the criterion of turning dirt on the ground in six months?’ ”

The projects, he said, range from $1.4 million in rock-fall barriers on Georgetown Hill to $20 million to replace a bridge on U.S. Highway 85.

George, however, is not the highest ranking Colorado official to push for an infusion of federal funds for infrastructure projects.

Gov. Bill Ritter wrote a letter last week to President-elect Barack Obama, pressing him to devote money to state transportation and infrastructure projects.

“Any future economic-recovery investments would not only help meet those vital needs, but they also would stimulate Colorado’s economy and create thousands of new jobs for Coloradans,” Ritter said.

The president-elect has said the idea of a multibillion-dollar infrastructure infusion — for Colorado and its peer states — is a strong possibility.

“We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” Obama said Monday.

George said if the federal government can meet at least some of Colorado’s immediate needs, it will help while the Legislature sorts out a long-term transportation funding solution.

Not every lawmaker is counting on federal assistance. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said he never holds much hope when federal officials promise to act on such a sizable matter.


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