Stimulus funds pave the way for new highway projects

By Jason Kosena

LITTLETON — With one quick tug of the rope, Gov. Bill Ritter pulled the curtain off a new road sign on Belleview Avenue just west of Santa Fe Drive on Tuesday morning.

The sign is the first of many highway markers that will alert drivers to road projects funded by the federal stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama in February at the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver.

Gov. Bill Ritter pulls the curtain off the new highway sign alerting drivers to the new construction project on Belleview Ave.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

Joined by representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, the Colorado Department of Transportation and local officials, Ritter touted the $1.2 million project to resurface one mile of Belleview between Federal Boulevard and Santa Fe Drive in Arapahoe County as well as replace the sidewalks and gutters along the stretch of road as a positive step forward for the state.

The 30-day project will employ approximately 30 private-sector workers in the construction industry, officials said. Aggregate Industries, which has regional offices in Golden, will oversee the project.

“The Recovery Act has already begun helping Colorado’s economy by preventing cuts in school budgets, giving working families tax breaks and increasing aid to the unemployed,” Ritter said standing behind a makeshift podium on a sidewalk on the north side of Belleview.

“But, now we will also be able to see physical work on our much-needed roadway infrastructure,” he continued. “I am proud that Colorado has begun putting the Recovery Act dollars to work. As more of the projects get underway, thousands of people will be put back to work, improving our economy and strengthening our communities.”

During his brief comments to a crowd of about 50 people, Ritter said the stimulus dollars have already gone a long way to help keep police officers on Colorado streets and teachers in the classrooms. He also reiterated the importance the dollars had in helping the Legislature balance the budget.

At Belleview Ave., a construction crew works on the first roads project to be funded with federal stimulus dollars.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

“I found this year in balancing the budget that the use of the Recovery Act dollars to ensure that we didn’t have to take serious cuts in higher education was extremely important in our ability to continue investing in higher education and we go into the future,” he said.

Despite the praise Democrats have placed on the Recovery Act and the projects it is helping to fund, not everyone believes the legislation is good for America. Republicans, who mostly voted against the bill in Congress, have said for months that the massive deficit spending the stimulus act requires will prove to be bad for future generations and could lead to hyper-inflation in coming years.

But Ritter, a supporter of the legislation, said the Belleview project groundbreaking Tuesday was an illustration of the positive impact the act is having on states like Colorado.

In 2008, a bipartisan group of governors expressed concern to the federal government that not enough was being done to properly maintain the nation’s roadways and serious federal intervention was needed, Ritter said.

Russell George, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, speaks to groundbreaking attendees at the site.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

“This act has helped us with that (goal),” he added.

Although the Belleview project is the first in the state to use stimulus dollars, two others will also begin construction this week, including a $11.7 million, 21-mile resurfacing project between Telluride and Ridgway in southwest Colorado and a $1.8 million project on I-70 to replace three miles of concrete between Kipling Street and Wadsworth Boulevard.

Colorado received approximately $400 million in stimulus funds for highway projects and another $103 million for mass transit.

“These are projects that have been on our (to-do) list for quite a while,” said Russell George, the executive director of CDOT. “But they are also projects that would not have been completed for quite a while had we not received the (stimulus) money.”