Michael Bennet, Joe Neguse, local officials celebrate $60M CDOT grant on Vail Pass

Neguse says credit belongs with local officials

Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep Joe Neguse, Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr, and Vail and Avon’s Mayors were among a group of Colorado officials to celebrate upcoming improvements on Vail Pass on Friday.

Neguse, who represents Vail in the U.S. House of Representatives, said the credit goes to the local officials.

“Having consensus at the grassroots level matters a great deal to making the grant get accepted at the federal level,” Neguse said.

CDOT director Shoshana Lew said the grant nearly wrote itself after all the stakeholders had contributed their thoughts. The conversation centered around “Improving safety, mobility, it has multi-modal elements, and really getting things from the auxiliary lane to common sense improvements like better lighting, a variable speed limit to slow it down when we need to,” Lew said.

Neguse said in the U.S. House of Representatives, Lew is known as “one of the most innovative transportation directors in the United States,” saying he has enjoyed hearing her testify before the House numerous times.

Lynx crossing

Neguse echoed the thoughts of Vail Mayor Dave Chapin, who said he was excited at the possibility of a new wildlife corridor, thanks to the wildlife underpasses the project will include.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist Michelle Cowardin said six wildlife underpasses have been funded are are scheduled for construction as part of the project. Cowardin said a lot of different species have been documented in the area in recent years.

“There’s some deer and moose and bear, but also lynx,” in the area where the underpasses will be constructed, Cowardin said.

Chapin also asked if the speed limit could be reduced. Lew said the variable speed limit technology will allow for reduction in speed limits during weather events.

Decade-long effort

I-70 Coalition Director Margaret Bowes said the coalition, which is itself comprised of 27 local governments and businesses, worked with an even larger group to come up with the plan for the I-70 corridor nearly a decade ago.

“This project is part of that plan,” Bowles said. “It’s also one of the I-70 Coalition’s identified top-2 priority projects.”

Bennet thanked the group for taking part in the effort.

“Our ability to get one of the largest grants that CDOT has ever had, that doesn’t happen without people working together,” he said. “And we ought to see what else we can do, together, on the watershed, on housing, on climate, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Originally published in the Vail Daily