Politicians in both parties are pushing to remove one stumbling block that could hamper the Pikes Peak region’s chances of landing the new U.S. Space Command.
Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Republican Colorado Springs U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn are backing efforts to fix the two-lane highway that serves Schriever Air Force Base. Colorado 94 has been troublesome for years, with daily backups and frequent wrecks; three airmen have lost their lives in crashes on the road in the past decade.
With more than 4,000 airmen, civilian workers and defense contractors toiling at the base, Colorado 94’s woes have been a topic of conversation for years.
But with military growth hitting Schriever, thanks to the National Space Defense Center and the precursor to U.S. Space Command, the highway has been stretched to its limits. In a letter to Lamborn, Polis said Colorado 94 fixes should be a “top consideration” for the state’s Department of Transportation.
The $10 million improvement program would include widening portions of the highway and upgraded lighting and signs.
Local infrastructure will be a top consideration as the military determines where U.S. Space Command and its 1,400 troops and civilians will be based. The command will oversee the space efforts of all military branches and is seen as a key component of the Trump administration’s push to beef up American efforts to defend its military satellites.
The Pikes Peak region is home to three of the six finalists in the competition to house the new command. Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases along with Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station are on the finalist list.
If the command comes here, much of it will need to be at Schriever, an ultra-secret base where airmen control most of the military’s satellites.
But the military is unhappy with the state of Colorado 94 and Lamborn, the ranking Republican on the readiness panel of the House Armed Services Committee, has pushed for a fix.
“Finally widening and modernizing Highway 94 would be a tremendous improvement to our defense infrastructure,” Lamborn said in an email. “I commend the governor’s efforts and look forward to continuing to work with him on moving this initiative forward.”
Polis and his administration have control over state highway money. But Lamborn and his fellow lawmakers could come up with much of the needed cash. Highway 94 would be eligible for funding under a “Defense Access Roads” program run by the U.S. Transportation Department and the Pentagon.
The program can cover up to 80 percent of road improvements, but getting the money approved would require a nudge from Congress. Lawmakers are also mulling an infrastructure improvement program in this year’s defense policy bill.
Highway 94’s problems could be exacerbated by projected growth on the prairie east of Colorado Springs, including a massive planned development near Schriever that could put more than 8,000 homes on 5,000 acres near the base. In his letter to Lamborn, Polis said a developer has bought the land and has plans for the new neighborhood, which could help Schriever, where apart from a small group living in houses on base, most airmen are commuters.