Sen. Hickenlooper: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is huge for rural Colorado
Coloradans send us to Washington each year to get things done for every corner of the state. Our historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill delivers on that mission. It is the largest infrastructure investment since FDR’s New Deal and was fully paid for without raising taxes.
It couldn’t come too soon for rural Colorado. From water and broadband, to roads and clean energy, this bill is a lifeline.
As part of the bipartisan group of 22 senators who helped negotiate and write the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, we consistently worked for rural priorities. Specifically, we achieved three major accomplishments: investments for faster, more reliable broadband internet; for sustainable Western water; and to modernize Colorado’s aging roads and bridges. In each of these areas — and in much of the rest of the bill — we focused on addressing the rapidly mushrooming consequences of climate change.
Last century we recognized that electricity was essential, and we connected every American household to a power line. In this century, we’re going to connect everyone to affordable, high-speed internet. During my time as governor, we took significant steps to connect the entire state to high-quality internet. That push continued in Washington as we wrote the broadband section of our bill. We’re investing billions to help Colorado (and every state) find the gaps in broadband coverage, craft a plan to fill those holes, and then actually go out and get it done — ensuring our rural economies are not left behind.
Water in the West is top of mind for farmers, ranchers and Tribes. This bill has $8.3 billion for Western water, including $300 million for implementing the Drought Contingency plan that we negotiated while I was governor. Ultimately this will help us build on strategies that work — like efficiency grants funded through WaterSMART — and rebuild our aging water storage infrastructure to squeeze, scrimp and save every last drop.
This bill creates jobs beyond investments in broadband and water infrastructure. We’re putting people to work repairing our roads and bridges to withstand extreme weather fueled by climate change, including the seemingly relentless wildfires and massive flooding that often follows. With the I-70 mudslides last September, we saw how extreme weather can hamper rural economies. That’s why we included money to rebuild resiliently, so our infrastructure can withstand tomorrow’s disasters. From forest management to mapping burn scars so we can predict mudslides before they happen, we’re preparing for the future. We are also strengthening and expanding rural airports, another facet of establishing a secure future for the entire state.
Investing in the reliance of our physical infrastructure — building back stronger — is something Colorado has learned repeatedly. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill goes beyond this, with the most significant (and yet still insufficient) investments to date to actually slow the rate of climate change. Our transition to clean energy — something already underway in rural Colorado where wind and solar are rapidly spreading — needs to accelerate. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is going to modernize the electric grid to get clean energy from where it’s made to where it’s needed, which will boost energy transmission, too.
We can’t ignore methane emissions and other air pollution in rural areas, especially on old oil and gas sites and abandoned coal mines. Our bill includes $21 billion for cleaning up toxic sites and capping leaking wells, improvements that will create rural jobs, safeguard our communities’ health, and address climate change directly by reducing the most harmful of “fugitive emissions”.
This bill also helps address the biggest problem many families are seeing today: rising costs for everything from food to gas. These price increases initially came from a supply chain crunch. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill invests in ports, airports and freight rail to increase resilience and capacity. Improving our roads, rails and bridges — where over 90% of goods travel — will dramatically improve efficiency and lower costs over the long term.
We got this bill done by working the old-fashioned way. Eleven Republicans and 11 Democrats got together, rolled up our sleeves, and worked to find common-sense solutions. We ultimately got 69 votes in the Senate, including 19 Republicans.
That level of bipartisanship is great for our democracy. We’ve shown the world that American Democracy works — we can still work together for the benefit of our country.
Make no mistake: our Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is a gamechanger, for the country and for rural Colorado. Its impact is just beginning. As my grandfather would tell me, after filling a bushel with apples from the trees in his yard: “Look at all you’ve accomplished … and look at all you still have left to do.” So giddy up!
John Hickenlooper is a Democratic U.S. senator from Colorado.
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