Grand Junction

People walk down Main Street in Grand Junction.

A measure seeking to inject $30 million into the state Department of Transportation’s Revitalizing Main Streets program is heading to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk after clearing the General Assembly.

The bill, part of a package of supplemental spending measures that cleared the House on Friday, puts general fund dollars into a CDOT program developed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that aims to fund "creative modifications" to state highways, local roads or other community space projects that will promote social distancing and economic activity. 

“This bill is critical in promoting public health and economic activity in safe and creative ways throughout the pandemic and beyond,” Rep. Tony Exum, a Colorado Springs Democrat who sponsored the bill, said on Thursday. “These quick-win activities will improve safety and create new community spaces, encourage healthy activity and mobility in Colorado towns and cities of all sizes.” 

Previous grants from the program have funded projects extending outdoor patio spaces for winter or winterizing accessible areas for outdoor dining in Colorado Springs, Crestone, Estes Park, Manitou Springs and Windsor. Others, like the Downtown Denver Partnership, were awarded a grant though the program to construct a "Winter Village Park" for visitors along the 16th Street Mall with access to outdoor seating, dining and retail space. 

Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, highlighted a host of other projects that would be eligible for grant funding, including: 

  • Sidewalks, medians and paving work in Lamar. 

  • Bike and pedestrian improvements at three intersections in downtown Durango. 

  • Signal improvements in Cheyenne Wells and Kit Carson. 

  • Road repairs and bike lanes in Cortez. 

  • Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps in Liman and Kit Carson. 

  • Reconstruction of portions of I-70B in Grand Junction and CR 134 in Clear Creek County. 

“This is funding that goes directly to our local communities,” said Herod, who along with Exum sponsored the bill in the House. “It is for us to make sure that folks are getting back to work and stimulating the economy.” 

While the bill won bipartisan support in both chambers, several Republican lawmakers expressed concern the measure didn’t put funds directly into highway improvements. 

If we're going to actually do a good thing — taking general fund dollars taxes already being paid by the people of Colorado and putting it on roads and bridges — that's good, but let's focus it and prioritize it to the core elements, the first order elements of what we need to be doing, not wandering off as this bill does towards elements that become something nice to have in association with the roads and bridges, the highways of Colorado, but not something fundamentally necessary, said Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Colorado Springs, when the bill was up for second reading in his chamber. 

Lundeen and six of his GOP colleagues voted against the bill when it cleared the Senate on a 27-7 vote on Feb. 26. 

Some Republicans in the House voiced similar concerns and proposed two amendments to that end. The first from Reps. Matt Soper, R-Delta, and Perry Will, R-New Castle, sought to put the $30 million directly into improvements to State Highway 139 while the second from Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, aimed to give CDOT the authority to spend funds as it saw fit. 

Both those amendments failed, with fellow Republican Rep. Richard Holtorf knocking the second. 

If we just send this money to CDOT without earmark or priority, where does it go? Some people will say it will go into a black hole in CDOT and maybe never make it to the targeted programs that the bill sponsor and the co-prime sponsor mentioned,” the Akron Republican said on Thursday. “I'm impressed today that the co-prime sponsor actually is talking about towns in my district — that excites me because now the conversation is, ‘We want to represent the whole state.’” 

Still, Holtorf joined his GOP colleagues in voting against the bill as it passed the House 40-23 on party lines.

The bill now heads to Polis, who has previously touted the program as vital to creating “lifelines for the small businesses and restaurants who are at the heart of our communities.” 

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