By RYAN SHERIDAN
Daily Press writer
Roads closed for construction may meet an economic traffic jam of their own.
Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) representatives held a meeting in Steamboat on Thursday evening to tell a familiar tale: With the recent economic downturn, there just isn't enough money to do all road improvements that have been planned over the last several years.
Specifically for Northwest Colorado, projects that would improve sections of U.S. Highway 40, Colorado State Highway 13 and other smaller transportation projects will be put on hold. These road improvements are called for in the 2020 Statewide Transportation plan and will still be listed in the plans, but currently have no funding. This lack of funds could push the repairs back indefinitely.
CDOT has lost $800 million from its budgets, and that forces all the statewide projects planned for the coming years to be reprioritized, rescheduled, or reorganized, said William Haight, CDOT Transportation Commissioner.
Representatives of the five counties in the Northwest Colorado Transportation Planning Region (TPR) workshoped with the CDOT representatives to reorganize and reprioritize transportation infrastructure projects for the area. The new plans will be submitted to the state government for funding consideration in 2002. The final plan lists three projects that would have a good chance of being approved.
The first priority will be improving U.S. Highway 40 from the east side of Rabbit Ear's Pass to Kremling, then south on Highway 9 from Kremling, possibly all the way to Silverthorn. The second priority would be Highway 13 from Rifle through Craig all the way to the Wyoming border, with the third priority being Highway 131 south from Steamboat to the junction with Highway 134. Because these plans are large scale projects concerning north/south corridors and involve several counties and multiple TPR's, they will receive close consideration. But, that cooperation with other TPRs needs to be worked out, said Owen Leonard, CDOT Region 3 director.
"The [Moffat County] Commissioners would prefer that [Highway] 13 be the first priority, but in the interest of being in agreement with the rest of the TPR will probably support this plan," said Sue Graler, Moffat County Planning director. "It's better to have 13 on the new priority list than to have it lost."
The CDOT representative will return in March, at the earliest, to give an update on the status of the Northwest TPR transportation projects and transportation improvement plans statewide.