U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert says new roads could alleviate Interstate 70 closures

Colorado’s Western Slope U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert wants the federal Department of Transportation to investigate whether new roads could lessen the local, state and national pain when Interstate 70 closes whether due to crashes, mudslides or flash floods.

Boebert introduced the I-70 Detour Act, which would require the DOT to perform the study and pay for whatever solutions might work best. More than likely that would mean building new roads, she told The Denver Post.

“I’ve experienced the frustrations firsthand,” Boebert said. “We are left with no viable alternatives. Travelers, truckers and workers either have to change their plans, take a five-hour-plus detour or cancel (their plans) altogether.”

Closures are a way of life along the I-70 corridor, Boebert, who lives in Silt, said. Sometimes area residents drive to a sporting event in Glenwood Springs only to be forced to spend the night because of a closure. She estimated a $1 million economic impact for every hour the interstate is closed.

And closures are becoming more frequent, largely due to wildfires in the area, which lead to increased mudslides and floods after the fact.

Officials close portions of I-70 regularly for car crashes but it was closed for much longer – more than 16 days – last summer after mudslides and flash floods buried the road under 10 feet of mud.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed the interstate 12 times between June and July of 2021 for flash flood warnings, Boebert’s office said in a release.

Boebert said her bill has not been assigned to a Congressional committee yet, but is optimistic it will be heard because she expects her Democratic colleagues to agree on the issue. If it passes and is signed into law, she acknowledged that new roads to bypass future closures would be costly and difficult to construct but she included a provision for the federal government to “fast track” whatever work might need to be done.

“My bill doesn’t pick one specific solution,” Boebert said. “It’s a move toward finding the right solution and then funding those solutions.”

A wide swath of public officials from Boebert’s massive Western Slope district voiced their support for her bill. They include Delta, Garfield, Mesa and Moffat county commissioners and state representatives Matt Soper and Perry Will.

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