Building relationships in D.C. is cornerstone of Glenwood Springs grant funding strategy
City Council members, city staff meet with federal officials to emphasize need for transportation grants
Over the course of five meetings in two days, Glenwood Springs city staff and council members bolstered relationships with key officials and members of Congress in Washington, D.C., City Manager Debra Figueroa said.
“Visiting the Capitol allows us to provide those at the highest levels with a narrative of our community’s needs,” Figueroa explained.
Mayor Jonathan Godes, council member Ingrid Wussow and City Attorney Karl Hanlon joined Figueroa in meetings on May 12 and 13 with Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; as well as with ranking officials within the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Land Management.
While the group covered an array of topics, Godes said one of the primary goals was to raise awareness about the city’s need for funds through the USDOT Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program.
The grant funding could help the Colorado Department of Transportation close a $24.5 million funding gap for a rural, multimodal network on the Western Slope, dubbed the Multimodal Options for a Vibrant, Equitable Western Slope: The Westward Three (MOVE: W3) project.
MOVE: W3 could establish mobility hubs and enhance transit access in three communities along the Interstate 70 corridor: Grand Junction, Rifle and Glenwood Springs, provide affordable transportation options to workers, reduce congestion and curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to CDOT documents.
USDOT RAISE grants, which were originally created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as TIGER grants, can be used for a wide variety of projects, such as dedicated bus lanes in Baltimore, Maryland, highway and bridge repairs in New Mexico, dock replacements in Alaska, and a rail-to-trail project in Arkansas, USDOT reported.
Joined by CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew, the group met with U.S. Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg on May 13 to discuss how those funds could benefit the communities involved, but also the Western Slope, Colorado and national travel via I-70.
Wussow said Lew represented the state’s interests as a whole, but she was glad for the opportunity to see Lew in action, noting Lew could one day be a prime candidate for high-level federal transportation administration.
During the group’s meeting with Bennet, the senator expressed interest in Glenwood Springs’ rising cost of living, Godes said.
“I was surprised when he asked about the outcome of the 480 Donegan election,” he said. “More people are paying attention to what’s happening in Glenwood Springs than we might realize.”
Hickenlooper’s schedule didn’t provide him much time to speak with the group, but Wussow said they did have some quality conversations with his staff.
“Face-to-face connections are incredibly important,” she said. “As a Realtor, I prefer to deal with local lenders, because I want to know who I am doing business with. I feel this was similar, and those in-person meetings create an accountability that can get lost with just names on applications.”
Godes said the group also emphasized how much a $33 million USDOT Rural Surface Transportation Grant could do for a fire evacuation route in southern Glenwood Springs via the South Bridge project.
On May 13, Boebert met with the group and discussed challenges facing Glenwood Canyon, Cottonwood Pass and the South Bridge project, he said.
“We had a conversation about how the canyon closing affects Glenwood Springs,” Godes added, “such as the impact on goods and services getting into the city and how it impacts people who travel I-70 for work.”
While the trip had a calculable cost — about $10,000 paid for from the city manager’s administrative budget — the return on investment is more speculative.
“We can’t say meeting these officials in D.C. is the reason we get all the grants we do,” Hanlon said. “But we can say that since we started making these trips, our grant funding has increased exponentially.”
Godes said in addition to building relationships, meeting in person puts a face to a grant application and allows local representatives to craft the narrative behind the need for funding.
“When we show up,” he said, “we get grant funding.”
Figueroa said city representatives have been visiting Washington, D.C., annually for about six years, and during that time, Glenwood Springs has received more than $24 million in federal, state and local grant funding.
Godes added, “I don’t know of any other community that has been as successful as us at leveraging federal and state dollars to accomplish our goals.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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