Colorado Highway 13 slated for improvements in Statewide Transit Plan | CraigDailyPress.com

Colorado Highway 13 slated for improvements in Statewide Transit Plan

Janelle O'Dea

— Northwest Colorado residents have a few more days to weigh in on a plan that could have big consequences for the future of local transportation improvements.

The Statewide Transit Plan aims to prioritize transportation funding in a state where the cost of transportation needs through 2040 is projected to exceed available funding by $23.3 billion.

"We do not have enough transportation funding to do what we need to do to maintain our roads, let alone for capital improvements," Colorado Transportation Commissioner Kathy Connell said. "So what happens is when we don’t have enough money, we are desperately trying to prioritize and make a plan to ensure everything is balanced and everybody is getting a little bit of something."

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said the county has asked the Colorado Department of Transportation to consider doing work on Colorado Highway 13 North multiple times and the project keeps getting "shelved."

But, this year, HIghway 13 made the list. The six Northwest corridors selected "have high importance to the region's transportation system or is important because of a need for near-term improvements."

Mathers said they'd like the road re-paved and widened. Fellow Commissioner John Kinkaid said it is a safety issue as well as a commerce issue to not re-do approximately 20 miles of the road.

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"There are only two roads in Colorado that are hookups to I-80 and I-70, and 13 is one of them," Mathers said. He said a lot of trucks detour around Craig because of deteriorating road conditions.

The plan seeks to widen lanes and shoulders of Highway 13, accommodate growth in freight transport and add passing lanes. These improvements will hopefully encourage more traffic through Craig.

County Attorney Rebecca Tyree said safety makes Highway 13 important to Craig's transportation system.

"If there's a disaster, say, if Elkhead Reservoir flooded or something, we would need a way to get out," Tyree said.

Connell said she hopes members of the public will comment on whether they agree with the proposed statewide funding approach.

Community members can view the Statewide Transit Plan and comment on it through Sunday by visiting http://www.coloradotransportationmatters.com.

The Colorado Department of Transportation oversees the site and planning process.

The draft plan also identifies Colorado Highway 131 from Wolcott to Steamboat Springs and Colorado Highway 9 from Silverthorne to Kremmling as two of the six priority corridors in the Northwest region.

On Highway 9, the plan calls for improved wildlife crossings, expanded transit usage, the construction of passing lanes and support for more commuter and recreation travel.

On Highway 131, the plan calls for improvements to accommodate freight transport growth and road improvements near Oak Creek, among other things.

Straightening out and widening parts of the highway as it twists and turns through Oak Creek Canyon is noted as one of the plan’s highest priorities in the next 10 years.

According to CDOT, there are $45.8 billion worth of transportation needs from 2016 to 2040 but only $22.4 billion in projected revenue available to fund them.

"The goal of the plan is to keep our focus, and it all has to do with asset management and how do we best spend our limited dollars," Connell said.

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.