The Chairman of the US House of Representative’s Transportation Committee, Bill Shuster (PA) held a field hearing in Colorado at the behest of Congressmen Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman in preparation for the reauthorization of MAP-21, the federal transportation funding legislation that expires this fall. The hearing gave a group of local officials the opportunity to lobby for North I-25 funding.
Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, the chair of the North I-25 Elected Officials Coalition, focused on MAP-21’s freight management plan. The highway already sees 40 million tons of freight each year and its movement is impeded by slow speeds. She added that the freight traffic is projected to increase to 200 million tons annually in just 9 years.
Loveland City Council member Joan Shaffer reviewed the EIS (environmental impact statement) for North I-25. The EIS includes two additional lanes in each direction north of Highway 66 (one general purpose lane and one tolled lane). She said CDOT is currently “freshening” the EIS, which was released in 2011.
Chairman Shuster said he was impressed with the freight focus and liked the fact that there appears to be a unified coalition lobbying on behalf of the region. He said he wants a five to six year reauthorization for MAP-21 but predicted that any highway trust fund (HTF) reauthorization will be a shorter fix to take Congress through the election year.
The private sector can help by continuing to educate the public regarding the plight of our highway infrastructure and make sure voters understand the importance of reauthorizing MAP-21 and the HTF, according to the Chairman. He made no promises to help Northern Colorado secure funding and reminded the group that MAP-21 specifically prohibits “earmark” funding for particular projects.
Note: Like everything related to Congress, the field hearing was partisan. Chairman Shuster is a Republican and was invited by GOP colleagues. None of the Democratic Congressional representatives were present (and it is unlikely they were invited, either.)