A major artery of Interstate 70 has been closed for a week in Glenwood Canyon, and all we’ve gotten from Gov. Polis is an emergency declaration while his transportation chief waffles on when the road might reopen.
Western Slope residents are running out of patience, and it’s no wonder.
Once the road is reopened, only one lane of traffic will be open each way. The governor hopes to restore the interstate to its full functionality by ski season.
That’s right, ski season (checks calendar), which is 16 weeks away.
Rick Enstrom of Enstrom Candies summed up the insult best in this interview with Westword:
“The lifeline to Western Colorado has effectively been cut, and we have a governor who doesn’t give half a shit about it because they didn’t vote for him.”
“Declaring things does not fix things,” he says. “That whole corridor has been neglected for generations, and now we’re having to pay the piper. This is horrendous.”
Check and mate.
In addition to his national toffee and confectionary company, Enstrom served two terms under Republican Gov. Bill Owens as wildlife commissioner.
Enstrom told Westword they’re struggling to make the seven-hour transport of ice cream from Grand Junction to Denver, so imagine what it’s doing to the Western Slope’s critical tourism industry as well as interstate commerce.
While Polis is paying lip service to half the state, the media is weakly trying to defend Colorado’s Democrat U.S. senators, neither of whom bothered to get critical funding earmarked in President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to address mudslides and the damage caused in the canyon.
The Denver Gazette didn’t bother to fact check second-hand information that U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet had secured $1 million for private landowners with a 20% match from the county to work on mitigation efforts.
We consulted our source, Mr. Google, who can’t find any published record of this federal funding, but did confirm a state grant for $1 million is in the works for private landowners to do mitigation on, private land.
The Colorado State Forest Service is offering financial assistance for groups to help reduce wildfire risks along the wildland-urban interface.
The state service announced earlier this week that it is accepting proposals for the Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation grant program, which provides money to fund mitigation projects on nonfederal land in the state. Homeowners associations, community groups, local governments, fire protection districts, nonprofits and others are encouraged to apply.
The grants have not yet been awarded.
Meanwhile, Hickenlooper is making media headlines through boasts that he was a key player in crafting the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill agreement.
If Hick’s so all-powerful, why didn’t he secure money in the 2,702-page bill for the ongoing problems that has repeatedly damaged and closed the federal highway?
Instead, Hickenlooper is telling the Western Slope to pound sand and hope the mudslide problems might qualify for a measly grant.
Hickenlooper considers himself an infrastructure guy. He’s managed it first hand as a former mayor and governor.
To him, the closure of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon is a glaring example of why the country needs an infrastructure bill. There has been a lot of talk about infrastructure in recent years, but nothing has crossed the finish line. While this bill doesn’t provide a silver bullet for I-70’s mudslide problems, it’s the type of project that would qualify for the infrastructure investments laid out in the bill.
Meanwhile, here’s what Axios Denver’s John Frank said he found in the infrastructure bill:
$300 million is set aside for the Colorado River drought plan, including $50 million for related projects in the state’s upper river basin.
$20 million for the Southwest Ecological Restoration Institutes, a wildfire prevention and forest restoration consortium.
A provision for improvements at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo.
Earmarks for tribal water infrastructure projects in the Arkansas and Rio Grande river basins, which are partly located in Colorado.
In a statement, Hickenlooper touted provisions in the bipartisan bill to boost electric vehicle charging, study marijuana-impaired driving, return a $29 million loan deposit to the Regional Transportation District and expand broadband.
Or as Hickenlooper explained the funding outlays:
We all know the bipartisan infrastructure package includes funding for: 🛠️🌉🛣️🏗️🚇
But it also includes: 🚰💧💻⚡️🔌🚗
AKA clean drinking water, broadband access, electric vehicles, and renewable energy!
— Senator John Hickenlooper (@SenatorHick) August 5, 2021
Too bad there’s not an icon for 30 years of forest mismanagement leading to a rampant fire hazard because radical Democrat environmentalist won’t allow logging and thinning so now mountains are wiped clean of a root system resulting in mudslides that shut down a critical interstate route.