State OKs funds for Highway 13

Committee allocates $6.5 million for section

— Colorado Highway 13 - including a stretch between Craig and Wyoming - will receive a $10 million upgrade next year, the Colorado Department of Transportation reported.

The state transportation committee last week approved $179.8 million for road improvements across the state.

The Highway 13 allocation, which was part of the total state distribution, is split between a $3.5 million improvement project to repair a rockslide area on the south end, near Rio Blanco and Garfield counties, and $6.5 million for a stretch between Wyoming and Craig.

There, the improvement entails road resurfacing and shoulder and guardrail improvements for up to five miles of highway, beginning near Wyoming and working south. The project, which hasn't been designed yet, will begin sometime next year.

"Up north is where the money will do the most good," said Nancy Shanks, CDOT's Western Slope spokeswoman. "We understand the value of what these funds can do, and will continue to plan improvements for this corridor as we get funding.

"This is just the first step. We'll continue to look at what other projects we can do."

Area residents had organized in recent months - a process that included a letter of appeal signed by motorists from Craig, Baggs, Wyo., and other areas that was sent to Gov. Bill Ritter - to lobby state transportation officials for improvement funds.

The Little Snake River Valley Highway 13 Committee contended the stretch of highway was a vital, yet dangerous, link connecting Craig and Baggs, Wyo., and spearheaded the resident lobbying effort.

Committee member Midge Mixon said the committee asked - and received - needed support from Baggs and Craig residents and public officials.

"I want everyone to know our voices are being heard," Mixon said. "I want everyone to understand it has been so important. : Taking just a little bit of time to speak out helped, and the state heard.

"Our voice does count for something. If we're all working together, it really helps," she said.

Tom Walsh, a Craig resident and transportation commissioner for Region 3 and District 6, had lobbied for improvements to the highway's north end for three years. He said the improvements are a good first step in improving the highway to the standard necessary for safety.

"I'm very excited we finally have gotten some money on Highway 13 north," Walsh said. "This is a beginning. My fellow commissioners are well aware, and the transportation (executive director) is well aware, of the problems, and we're working on getting the money to fix it the way it should be."

He said the transportation committee could budget for more improvement money next year.

"I would say it will be looked at very hard," Walsh said. "It's a very dangerous stretch of highway, and with increased traffic, it's just multiplying the problem. I will continue to fight for Highway 13 north as long as I can."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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