Editorial: Omission of I-25 North from Mega Grant Program represents missed opportunity

Northern Colorado stakeholders are rightfully miffed at the exclusion of further improvements to Interstate 25 from a federal grant program.

The Colorado Department of Transportation decided to forego applying for a Mega Program Grant for north I-25, instead focusing efforts on the Floyd Hill area of Interstate 70. Mega Program Grants are available as part of the $1.2 trillion federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

While Floyd Hill deserves attention — as do other parts of Colorado’s transportation infrastructure — additional funding for I-25 is critical to relieving congestion in the area from Thornton to Fort Collins. Especially important is the stretch from Colorado Highway 66 near Longmont to Colorado Highway 56 at Berthoud, which suffers from bottlenecks as the interstate goes from three lanes to two.

That area — known as Segment 5 — has languished without funding for more than a decade. (The Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for widening were completed in 2011.)

Northern Colorado represents one of the fastest-growing regions of the state, with Weld County behind only Broomfield County in terms of population growth since the 2020 census. Far greater growth is projected in the coming decades.

And population growth inevitably leads to rapid commercial growth, including retail, office, warehouse/distribution, recreational and more.

Travelers who venture north from Denver into Larimer and Weld counties will see significant highway improvements that are ongoing, but the span from Longmont to Berthoud remains void of transportation improvements.

Completing the I-25 improvements along the corridor is estimated to cost another $600 million to $900 million.

CDOT’s decision not to request funding for I-25 has upset Republicans and Democrats alike, with governmental representatives and business leaders voicing their displeasure in letters to CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew.

Several groups, including the North I-25 Coalition and the Fix North I-25 Business Alliance, have for years worked to secure funding for I-25, which functions as the “Main Street” of Northern Colorado. Many business leaders worry that CDOT suffers from “I-25 fatigue,” given funding that has already gone into the area.

But any “I-25 fatigue” is misguided: Local governments pooled funding sources to supplement state and federal dollars that have gone into the current projects. And Northern Colorado’s transportation needs previously were neglected for decades.

So now  is not the time for CDOT to tap the brakes when it comes to I-25 improvements. It’s time to step on the gas to get the projects done.