No state highway maintenance funds for Moffat County

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The Colorado Department of Transportation's tight financial situation could lead Moffat County down a bumpy road in the next few years.

CDOT has maintenance plans for its state highways here, but the agency lacks the funds to implement them, said Ed Fink, regional transportation director, during CDOT's annual meeting with Moffat County commissioners.

Two safety projects, one to mitigate deer-auto collisions and another to study and improve traffic safety along U.S. Highway 40 in Craig, are the only state highway projects scheduled in Moffat County during the next year.

All other projects will wait until money becomes available.

"We're confident we're going to see some funding increase eventually," Fink said.

CDOT's budget has decreased by $200 million during past years, and payments of previous projects are absorbing most of the remaining money, Fink said.

CDOT is studying Colorado Highway 13, but no projects are scheduled in Moffat County. If funding comes back, Moffat County would be a priority, Fink said.

At some point, CDOT would like to resurface U.S. 40 between Hayden and Craig and replace a bridge one mile north of Craig on Colorado 13 with box culverts.

No work is scheduled on Colorado Highway 318 until 2009. Then CDOT plans to resurface it.

"I don't think it's going to last that long," Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said.

That road, which stretches from Maybell to Browns Park and the Utah border, is seeing increasing semitrailer traffic as energy companies transport natural gas from Wyoming to Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.

Many of these trucks take Moffat County Road 57 south, bypassing Craig.

The county recently finished a multimillion-dollar paving project on that road, and it already needs to be resurfaced, according to the county Road and Bridge Department.

Because interstate traffic is affecting the road, Commissioner Darryl Steele has suggested the county give the road to the state. He asked the CDOT employees at the meeting whether their agency would be willing to take the road.

"Given our current situation, I would be very surprised if they (the Colorado Transportation Commission) were receptive to it," Fink said.

However, the commission might be willing to take C.R. 57 if the county took on a state highway, Fink said. But they didn't discuss which roads might be traded.

Raftopoulos said she learned during lunch Tuesday that Utah was planning to pave Colorado 318 from the state line to Flaming Gorge Reservoir. If the road is paved, it could become a major thoroughfare on both sides of the state line, she said.

For its safety projects scheduled next year, CDOT plans to set up a series of reflectors along U.S. 40 east of Craig that will create an array of lasers visible only to animals, said Jim Nall, CDOT traffic engineer.

The lasers should frighten animals from crossing the highway while cars are passing, Nall said.

He estimated the cost of the project at $300,000. During a trial run in Colorado, the project reduced accidents by 50 percent, Nall said.

Most deer-auto collisions occur during evenings in October and November.

A consultant has been contracted to perform a safety study of U.S. 40 past Kmart in Craig, Nall said.

Traffic on that stretch of road has been identified as the most dangerous in the city.

CDOT has been working with Craig on the study, and Nall described the project as under way.

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