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'Mitigation Saves': CU Engineer Praises Transportation Improvements In Infrastructure Bill

DENVER (CBS4) - Colorado could see billions of dollars in federal funding coming in to address infrastructure issues across the state. The money would be a part of President Joe Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Colorado could see more than $5 billion over five years that would go to road repairs, bridge replacements, improving public transportation, electric charging stations and $100 million to extend broadband internet to reach throughout the state.

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The $3.7 billion that would go directly to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation.

Keith Porter is a structural engineering professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an expert in natural hazard mitigation.

"Mitigation saves," he said.

"It just means better design, design accounting for climate change and paying a little more now to avoid much bigger losses in the future, when that next severe winter storm happens or when that next big flood happens," Porter said.

While the Colorado Department of Transportation has a number of projects already in the pipeline, much of the attention on improvements is around Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, where mudslides have kept the highway closed for nearly two weeks.

Porter, though not a CDOT engineer, says rebuilding that stretch with hazard protection in mind would cost billions alone.

"If you were to ask one of them how much to elevate the Glenwood Canyon roadway so that it's viaduct, and the mud can go underneath, they would say it's just too expensive," he said.

According to the American Society of Civil engineers, Americans lose thousands of dollars every year related to poor infrastructure, like roads, airports, aging electric grids and inadequate water distribution.

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When it comes to roads alone, Coloradans lose more than $600 on average every year.

"We don't fix our potholes. You're going to drive over potholes, and you'll damage your suspension, and it may not be everybody in every car every year, but long term it costs everyone," Porter said.

It's the same story across the country and while he says one trillion dollars sounds like a lot of money he believes it's just a start.

"It's not nothing. It's not just a drop in the bucket, but it's not going to solve the problem," he said.

The president's bill does have bipartisan support. Both Colorado Senators Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper voted in favor, but some Colorado Republicans have raised concerns over the size of the spending and the impact to the countries overall deficit.

Gov. Jared Polis' office announced Tuesday night he will tour the I-70 damage in Glenwood Canyon and provide an update on the timeline of reopening the interstate at 9 a.m. Watch his update on CBSN Denver.

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