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Colorado Delegation Leads Bipartisan and Bicameral Effort to Reopen I-70

August 7, 2021

Today, Rep. Lauren Boebert and the entire bicameral and bipartisan Colorado congressional delegation sent a letter to the Department of Transportation requesting assistance from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program to respond to the Glenwood Canyon mudslides that damaged Interstate 70.

Rep. Lauren Boebert stated: “After over a year of oppressive lockdowns, businesses and communities in Colorado are once again suffering, this time as a result of I-70’s closure from massive mudslides. I am working hard in conjunction with federal, state, and local government agencies to reopen I-70. I am proud that we have the support of Colorado’s entire bipartisan and bicameral delegation in seeking federal support to repair this federal interstate and get Colorado’s main east-west transportation corridor opened as quickly as possible.

Background:

Yesterday, with the support of Governor Polis, Rep. Lauren Boebert released a draft of a letter to President Biden she is leading signed by all the members of Colorado’s delegation in the House of Representatives requesting that the President grant Governor Polis’ request for an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act. Rep. Boebert plans to send the bipartisan letter to President Biden supporting Governor Polis’ request for a Stafford Act emergency declaration after the Governor makes his official request.

Rep. Boebert has been actively monitoring the I-70 mudslides, and she received a briefing from Governor Polis and the Colorado Department of Transportation on Monday. She pledged to offer her full support and to work to secure federal disaster assistance.  

Last week, mudslides caused severe damage to I-70, the main corridor connecting Colorado’s Front Range with the Western Slope. Colorado Department of Transportation officials estimate that it could take a few days or even a few weeks to clear just one lane of traffic going each direction on the highway. The full support of the federal government is necessary to assist efforts to get I-70 reopened.

The text of the Colorado delegation’s letter to the Department of Transportation requesting assistance from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program is available here and below.

We write to express our support for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) imminent request for emergency federal resources to aid our state’s response to severe mudslides and flash flooding along the Interstate-70 (I-70) corridor through Glenwood Canyon, Colorado. I-70 is a critical transportation corridor that connects communities from the Front Range to the Western Slope and serves as an economic lifeline for the state and the country.

Recently, torrential storms in and around Glenwood Canyon produced more rain over the span of five days than the region typically experiences in the entire month of July. The Grizzly Creek Fire burned in this same area last summer, causing instability in the watersheds and cliff faces above the canyon, leading to more catastrophic debris flows. As a result, mudslides have blocked several portions of I-70, burying the road in as much as 10 feet of mud and bringing transit to a standstill. According to CDOT preliminary reports, cleanup work, detours, and road closures along the affected portions of the interstate may take weeks to complete. Without sufficient resources to muster a swift response to this emergency, the economic impacts of the I-70 closure will continue to escalate, disrupting individual livelihoods and posing an ongoing hazard to public safety.

Congress authorized the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief Program to provide federal aid for highway reconstruction following natural disasters. CDOT will submit a formal request to your Department and we strongly urge its swift consideration. Resources from FHWA’s Emergency Relief Program are necessary to adequately respond to this ongoing and severe crisis.

Other key transportation corridors in Colorado remain vulnerable to natural disasters. Last year, Colorado experienced three of the worst wildfires in our state’s history. Barren acres of burn scars and damaged watersheds endure as testimonies of their destruction. Going forward, we are committed to working with your Department on investing in our infrastructure to make it more resilient to wildfires and floods. By implementing the necessary mitigation measures, we can better protect Colorado communities against catastrophic natural disasters.        

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, which threatens the safety and wellbeing of Coloradans. We look forward to working closely with your Department on a whole-of-government response and rapid recovery effort. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices with any questions.