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Local, state officials talk future of transportation at Commuting Solutions legislative breakfast

The nonprofit held their 13th breakfast Thursday morning
Interstate Highway 680 near the intersection of Mission Road and Sheridan Road in Calif., on Sept. 22, 2021. (Harika Maddala/ Bay City News)

Louisville-based Commuting Solutions held their 13th legislative breakfast Thursday morning to talk about transportation and climate change ahead of the start of this year’s legislative session. 

Local and state representatives focused on the $5.4 billion transportation bill Gov. Jared Polis signed this summer along with the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and how the two will positively impact transportation in Colorado. 

Transportation accounts for the largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, said emcee Dennis Paul, vice president of government affairs and strategic partnerships at Elevations Credit Union.

“It puts us at a critical crossroad to figure out how to make mobility adjustments with the literal future of the planet in mind,” he added. 

Rep. Joe Neguse, in a pre-recorded message played during the virtual breakfast, said the infrastructure bill is a generational investment in the country’s transportation network, and it’s the single largest investment since the interstate system was built.

“We’re hopeful we can use the infrastructure bill as a tipping point,” Rep. John Hickenlooper said, echoing Neguse. Over the next 10 years the state will undergo a transition to clean energy across aviation, trucking and shipping, he said.

Every official who spoke at the breakfast started by acknowledging the devastation left in the wake of the Marshall Fire, which destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 structures in east Boulder Country last week.

Rep. Matt Gray, who represents Broomfield, Superior and Erie, said the aftermath of the fire’s destruction dovetails into the infrastructure conversation.

“Not only is the human cost so high, but the infrastructure cost is high. We lost about 1,000 homes in our community where people already couldn’t afford to be,” he said, adding that displaced residents will need efficient transportation that can take them from their temporary home to places like school or church.

“It’s going to take everyone working together from federal, state and local to actually deliver. That’s the exciting part of this, he said. “We still probably don’t have funding to build a perfect system, but (we have) funding to build a better system.”

The state’s transportation bill includes a 10-year plan to build state roads and bridges, add more electric vehicle charging stations, boost mass transit and mitigate air pollution in problem areas, Colorado Politics reported

The bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress “will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind,” according to the White House’s webpage. “The legislation will help ease inflationary pressures and strengthen supply chains by making long overdue improvements for our nation’s ports, airports, rail, and roads. It will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone gets ahead for decades to come.”