Craig official wants Highway 13 funding |

Craig official wants Highway 13 funding

Brian Smith

A semitrailer drives Thursday down a narrow section of Colorado Highway 13 just before the shoulder widens at mile marker 111, north of Craig. A resolution seeking continued funding to widen the shoulders of the highway is being presented before Club 20 today in hopes the organization will lobby for the money.

A highway some consider to be an important corridor in Northwest Colorado could receive funding in hopes of improving safety.

Ray Beck, Craig City Council member and Club 20 board member, will present a resolution to Club 20 today to fund Colorado Highway 13 upgrades during the group's annual spring meeting.

If approved, Club 20, a Western Slope advocacy group, will lobby to have funding designated to continue construction of paved shoulders on the highway — the lack of which Beck called a safety hazard.

In 2008, funding was granted to widen the shoulder on a seven-mile stretch of the highway south of the Wyoming border. About 20 miles of the road remain without a paved shoulder.

Its rural location, which makes it a large wildlife crossing, and narrow width contribute to a number of accidents, Beck said.

Highway 13 runs from I-70 intersecting Meeker and Craig on its way through Baggs, Wyo., to I-80.

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Beck, who has been involved in drafting a resolution since January, said the highway serves a critical role for area residents, businesses and the oil and gas industry.

"In 2008, the highway saw more wide-loads in relation to the oil and gas industry than it had in the last 20 to 30 years," he said.

Because of a slight decrease in industry production, however, the highway has seen lighter traffic, but Beck remains steadfast in his pursuit of funding.

"I think it is important as a county and city that we keep this in the forefront and continue to pursue it until it is complete," he said.

Beck does not know where the funding could come from, but he hopes the collective voices of Club 20 can make a difference.

"In a down economy, funds are going to be short everywhere," he said. "There are no guarantees. But it is kind of like the lottery — if you don't buy a ticket, you can't win. As an organization, I think it is our responsibility to do that."

Beck said it is important to keep the needs of the Western Slope fresh in the minds of legislators.

Jeff Comstock, Club 20 chair-elect, said getting funding for Western Slope highways is important.

"There is a limited amount of money across the state for highways and anything that we can get for our direction is a bonus," he said. "Club 20, representing the Western Slope, really would like to see money out this direction rather than all sitting on the mousetrap in Denver."

Comstock also agrees with Beck that roads like Highway 13 are necessary for the survival of the local economy.

"The highways are critical transportation routes for the industry and private folks," he said. "We've been given a limited budget and we need to do all we can to fight for that funding to be on the Western Slope and especially in the northwest where we have seen little of that money go."

Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said highway funding should be a priority of the state legislature.

"You can't underscore the importance of the highways enough," he said. "There is a planning process in place, and we support that process but … we would like to see Highway 13 provided more funding."

He also said there are larger issues at work with state highway funding.

"We are a decade, if not two decades, behind in trying to keep up with the needs of our highways," he said. "We aren't even doing a decent job of maintaining those highways, much less grow them to meet the capacity."

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