Press Releases

ICYMI: Hickenlooper Visits U.S. Highway 50 Bridge, Tours El Jebel Mobile Home Park

Jul 9, 2024

In case you missed it, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper visited the U.S. Highway 50 bridge over Blue Mesa Reservoir with local officials to discuss the importance of maintaining critical infrastructure and efforts to repair and reopen the bridge. Prior to the event, Hickenlooper met with community leaders from Gunnison County to hear more about how local communities were impacted by the bridge’s outage. Hickenlooper’s visit came in advance of CDOT’s partial bridge reopening over the July 4th weekend.  

Hickenlooper also traveled to Basalt to tour El Jebel Mobile Home Park and meet with mobile home park residents and local nonprofit leaders. He discussed the ongoing affordable housing crisis, as well as issues that mobile home park residents face, including drastic rent hikes and environmental quality issues. 

Hickenlooper also made stops in Paonia to tour a methane capture project funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and discuss other federal investments in rural climate resiliency for the North Fork Valley. Afterwards, Hickenlooper hiked with local leaders in White River National Forest to discuss community-led efforts to protect access to public lands.

Check out the headlines below:

Montrose Daily Press: A Route Restored — Middle Bridge opens to limited traffic ahead of Fourth of July Weekend

The Middle Bridge, along U.S. 50 between Montrose and Gunnison, will soon reopen to limited traffic, restoring a flow over the Blue Mesa Reservoir that has been cut off for months following an inspection that revealed cracks in the structure’s steel. 

It’s a pretty big deal. The Colorado Department of Transportation has announced that the agency will be handing out “refreshments and cookies” to the first drivers lined up to cross the bridge as it’s first opened at 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning. And this past week, Sen. John Hickenlooper visited the bridge site to mark the occasion. 

“I think hats go off to CDOT,” Sen. Hickenlooper noted on a blustery Wednesday afternoon on the Blue Mesa. “You know, in a crisis like this, it’s all hands on deck.”

The senator said he was most struck by stories from the local communities detailing ways in which the challenge of a closed bridge were overcome.

“We heard the stories about, you know, kids having to take the boat to get to school, the hospital being stretched in every different direction to make sure that they were connected, and yet the stories we’ve heard again and again are of people working together to solve the problems,” Hickenlooper said, adding that he was relaying these stories to Washington D.C. — “I’ve been texting with Secretary Buttigieg, who’s the head of the Department of Transportation in Washington … so, we have friends in the right places.”

…“I guarantee you, I will be texting some of these stories here the next couple of days,” Hickenlooper assured. “And when we get back to D.C., we will sit down on the right committee so that we can look at how do we respond to this faster and make sure that the money that CDOT has spent as much as humanly possible is replaced by federal funds. But also how do we take the lessons learned here and make them available not just to other communities in Colorado, but available to other communities around the country?”

Watch: KKCO 11 News: Senator Hickenlooper visits the U.S. Hwy 50 Bridge

It has been a trying time for the people of Montrose and Gunnison counties since the US 50 Bridge was closed on April 18th. This closure has disrupted daily life for many. It has created a barrier separating people from their jobs, medical services, business opportunities, and friends and family.

Jerry Chonka, a Gunnison resident told us, “It’s kind of a hassle. But we’ve dealt with it down in the little blue for three and a half years. So it’s another day, just another impediment to where I need to go.

Similarly, Hazel Bryant, another Gunnison resident said, “It gets tiring. Especially when you want to go home; It took us three hours to get to Montrose this morning… it’s just ridiculous.”

Senator John Hickenlooper addressed the concerns of the community members and how they have been dealing with the closure. “…We caught it this time. There. Nobody died on this bridge and did not fall down. And it is a horrible inconvenience”

CDOT anticipates a partial reopening of the bridge around July 4th.

Watch: KREX CBS: Hickenlooper Visits Highway 50 Bridge

The Aspen Times: Sen. Hickenlooper visits El Jebel Mobile Home Park, discusses urgent affordable housing crisis

Sen. John Hickenlooper visited the El Jebel Mobile Home Park on Thursday, where he engaged with residents and non-profit leaders to discuss the urgent affordable housing crisis and the challenges faced by mobile home park residents, including steep rent increases and environmental concerns.

Voces Unidas, a Roaring Fork Valley non-profit dedicated to empowering the Latino and Hispanic communities in Colorado’s central mountain region, facilitated the discussion with him. The conversation focused on the disparity in affordable housing availability for various essential workers.

A poignant question highlighted the lack of affordable housing options for hospitality, tourism, and construction workers, despite the presence of such options for teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Hickenlooper acknowledged the broader community concern.

“That is the question that many, many people in the valley ask, and not just Latinos,” he said. “So many wealthy people want to live here because of the natural beauty.”

He also admitted that current first-time buyer programs and subsidies are insufficient for many potential homeowners.

“There are first-time buyer programs out there, but the subsidies are not large enough for many people to buy a house,” he explained.

Although he did not have a definitive solution, he emphasized ongoing efforts to explore more affordable housing construction methods, particularly in mountain towns. He noted that while mobile homes present a viable affordable housing option, they are more likely to be located in areas like Rifle rather than Aspen.

Aspen Daily News: Hickenlooper talks affordable housing, immigration reform with RFV Latinos

Alleviating affordability challenges for locals in tourist economies must be tackled at all levels of government, but Republicans are making it harder, according to Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper.

It’s gonna get worse … unless we find affordable housing. The local leadership knows that and usually that’s a local leadership, local money thing,” Hickenlooper said in an appearance in El Jebel on Thursday. “But I think the state and the federal government are both willing to step up now.”

Speaking at a roundtable event with Roaring Fork Valley residents, Hickenlooper discussed housing affordability and ownership in mobile home parks, as well as cost-of-living issues and immigration reform. Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a Latino advocacy and policy nonprofit founded in Glenwood Springs, facilitated the discussion between Hickenlooper and about eight Latino community members living from Aspen to Parachute

Aspen Public Radio: Hickenlooper talks affordable housing, mobile home parks with residents in El Jebel

U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) was in El Jebel on Thursday. In a meeting organized by local Latino advocacy nonprofit Voces Unidas, the senator heard from residents on a variety of issues.

Protections for mobile home parks

…In 2020, Governor Jared Polis signed a law giving mobile home park residents the opportunity to purchase the park if the landlord is looking to sell. Residents have 90 days after receiving notice from the landlord to make an offer.

Hickenlooper praised the law, but recognized that there are often obstacles to making these purchases happen.

“I think it’s worth talking about other ways we can catalyze or accelerate the process,” he said. “Right now, we have to wait until someone makes an offer, but maybe there’s a way we can work with a couple of foundations and be more proactive.”

Affordable housing in mountain communities

…[Hickenlooper] said overall, there needs to be more housing built in resort communities to bring prices down.

“I mean, bottom line is everybody should be able to afford a house,” Hickenlooper said. “This country is built on the notion that if you work 40 hours a week, you should be able to have an apartment, and after a few years, you should get raises and be able to buy a house… and we’re falling down.”

Comprehensive immigration reform

…Hickenlooper said that immigration reform wouldn’t be possible unless Democrats could win in 2024.

“It’s obvious. I agree the country would be stronger and better. Your life would be happier. You would have a greater sense of security,” he said. “But there are people against that direction who have won elections, continue to win elections. And in this country, the only thing you could do is fight harder to win the next election.”

Anti-immigrant rhetoric has been on the rise locally and nationally.

Hickenlooper sympathized with Peña and her family’s struggles, and said he hoped he and other lawmakers could find a path forward.

“Immigration reform doesn’t hurt anyone,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt anyone. It only helps. It helps businesses. It helps families. It helps school districts, because they have the ability, certainty of their size, of their student population. But we still have a ways to go.”


Recent Press Releases