GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Garfield County commissioners agreed Monday to fund the county's share of $25,774 to complete the $1.6 million South Bridge environmental assessment later this summer.
But, minus any plans to come up with the estimated $30.6 million needed to move forward with actual construction of the proposed southern extension of Airport Road and bridge across the Roaring Fork River to Highway 82 south of Glenwood Springs, commissioners wondered if it's all for naught.
"Is this just going to be another study that sits on the shelf?" Commissioner Tom Jankovsky asked of project officials from the city and engineering consultants who attended the regular commissioners meeting Monday.
Even the remaining $4 million in federal funding earmarked by Congress in 2005 may no longer be available, due to an informal "ban" on earmarks imposed by Congress last year, Commission Chairman John Martin advised.
For now, though, work continues to study and do the preliminary engineering for the proposed new southern outlet that would serve the Four Mile and South Glenwood areas.
An environmental assessment (EA) is required because the project is making use of federal funds. Congress originally approved $5.2 million as an earmark for the project, of which about $1.1 million has been spent to complete the EA.
The study is nearly done, said Dave Betley, assistant director of public works for the city of Glenwood Springs.
"We hope to finish it up by August," he told the commissioners.
"We do believe that the South Bridge project will be an important part of the infrastructure and will address some of the regional impacts," Betley said.
One of the primary purposes for the new route is to provide an emergency evacuation route for the Four Mile and South Glenwood area in the event of a wildfire or other emergency.
A new connection to Highway 82 south of Glenwood Springs is also viewed as a way to relieve traffic and wear and tear on the 27th Street Bridge, which recently received a poor rating from state bridge inspectors, Betley said.
Currently, Midland Avenue to 27th Street is the main route for Four Mile and South Glenwood area residents to access eastbound Highway 82 toward Aspen.
"There are infrastructure impacts throughout this area that need to be addressed," Betley said. "We do hope that this is not another 'shelf-life' project."
Once an EA is completed, projects must be funded within three years. Otherwise, the public review process must start over again.
Because the South Bridge project is off of the state highway system, it will likely be up to the county and the city to come up with the majority of the funding.
Commissioners unanimously approved the additional funding request to complete the EA. That money will come out of the county's general fund.
Also Monday, the Garfield County commissioners:
• Approved a $5,000 sponsorship grant to the Colorado Mesa University Center for Local Government to support its Energy and Environment Symposium, coming up on May 15-16. The event will invite local, state and federal government officials and energy industry representatives to discuss a range of issues, including local government's role managing the impacts of energy development, hydraulic fracturing, tax and local government revenue implications.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has been invited to be one of the keynote speakers. Also lined up to give one of the keynote addresses is former Colorado state geologist Vince Matthews, who will be speaking on "The Global Scramble for Natural Resources and its Impact on Colorado."
• Approved a $10,000 grant to Crime Stoppers of Garfield County to help the organization put on its primary fundraising event this summer, called the Blue Jeans Ball.