Moffat County road ranks high in regional priorities

Residents concerned about heavy truck traffic and the lack of shoulders on Colorado Highway 13 to the Wyoming state line were heard by state and local officials.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) 20-year regional plan ranks upgrading that portion of highway the fifth highest priority in the region meaning there is a 100 percent chance construction will be funded.

"We've worked hard to get this project recognized," said Joe Janosec, Moffat County commissioner and Regional Planning Commission member. "It's going to be a major undertaking. We're very pleased the rest of the counties supported the proposal."

State and local officials have been working for nearly two years to update a long-range planning process for transportation funding. The Federal Transportation Act mandates the plan look forward 20 years and be updated every six years.

It is the job of the Regional Planning Commission to prioritize transportation projects that will be put into a regional plan and be submitted to the state. Nearly 40 people worked together to create the 20-year plan for the Northwest Transportation Planning Region, which includes Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson counties. There are 6,263.5 miles of road in this five-county region.

The goal of the regional planning process is to list projects that, when implemented, will assure the regional transportation system will continue to meet travel needs for the next 20 years.

Moffat County originally submitted 10 highway projects, but ended with four on the final list. That list was submitted to the state where projects from 14 counties were compared and ranked. The Northwest Transportation Planning Region is part of CDOT Region 3, which includes the Intermountain, Grand Junction, Northwest and Gunnison Valley transportation regions. Projects in Region 3 are compared and ranked against each other, meaning Moffat County competes with Grand Junction for funding, but not Denver because it is part of a separate region.

"It's kind of a dynamic process within state and local governments," Phil Anderson, CDOT regional plan coordinator, said. "It's a fairly equitable decision."

Projects are ranked based on regional economic development issues, the need for increased capacity and safety.

"Usually those projects that float to the top are the best projects, ones that we would rank high," Anderson said.

All projects submitted to the state are ranked, but not all are funded. The state appropriated $25 million for Region 3 projects from 2001 to 2006 and $318,000,000 over 20 years.

That funding should provide for nearly 50 projects in Region 3. Moffat County has only one project listed, but 13 projects will be funded from Region 3 with the construction of a transit center in Steamboat Springs ranking first.

The lack of projects in Moffat County doesn't bother Janosec.

"I think what we've gotten is pretty good," he said. "This is major construction. In years past, we've had quite a bit of maintenance money. Sure we'd like to have more done, but I do think we've got our fair share of the money that's available."

The plan has ranked passenger rail service, increased air transportation and additional bike and pedestrian trails as growing priorities in the northwest region.

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