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Colorado to accelerate state construction projects

DENVER -- Gov. John Hickenlooper and the head of the Colorado's transportation department said Friday more construction projects will start sooner because of a new budgeting plan that's expected to free up $300 million annually over five years.

Hickenlooper and Colorado Department of Transportation executive director Don Hunt said projects will begin based on the money the state currently has saved up for projects, a change from the current system of waiting to save all the money needed to begin a project, which takes years.

“The program doesn't solve the state's long-term transportation needs, but it does accelerate many projects that might otherwise have had to sit longer,” Hickenlooper said in a statement announcing the initiative, called the “Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships,” or RAMP.

The budgeting change is expected to free up the hundreds of millions of dollars over five years, and speeding up construction is expected to create or sustain more than 10,500 jobs during that time, state officials said.

“Again, it's safe to have the money in the bank, but it doesn't really provide the benefit that's intended,” Hunt said.

He said the new budgeting plan is being implemented now and his department has already picked a few projects that will start earlier than expected.

They include $86 million worth of repaving roads across the state and widening Interstate 25 from Monument to Colorado Springs. More comprehensive projects will begin in the coming months, Hunt said.

“We still have high unemployment in Colorado, and very high construction unemployment. We're going to put a lot of people back to work,” he said.

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