City awaits word on 82 |

City awaits word on 82

The fate of Colorado Department of Transportation funding for the relocation of Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs is still unknown, but answers could come by the summer.

While CDOT is aware of the Glenwood Springs City Council’s desire to shift Highway 82 off Grand Avenue, the project is not on CDOT’s list – at least not yet.

Even if it does become a recognized project, the project could still remain unfunded because of budget cuts that came as a result of the weakened economy.

Heather Dugan, director of financial management and budget for CDOT, detailed the agency’s dire financial to City Council Monday afternoon.

“The situation is somewhat bleak, and it’s somewhat bleak for some time to come,” she said.

Dugan and CDOT Region 3 director Owen Leonard handed out two tables: One showed a simplified version of CDOT’s original budget released last July, and the other showed revised numbers calculated after CDOT realized there would be major budget shortfalls.

The tables showed that after adjustments, statewide programs lost about $52 million, regional programs lost about $120 million, Strategic 28, or 7th Pot, projects lost about $69 million in resource allocation, and bond proceeds for the 7th Pot lost about $44 million.

While $285 million in cutbacks sounds grim, Dugan said there is a possibility that some or all of the money could be reallocated as soon as the 2004 budget year, which starts July 1, 2003.

She said the key to getting a project like the 82 relocation funded and eventually built is to get it placed on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, list.

“Once your project is in the STIP, that’s where you want to be,” Dugan said.

Listing means the project will eventually be funded, she said. For those projects not on the list, funding could be withheld indefinitely.

There is, however, another funding source, which in its last go-round was called the “7th Pot.” It got the name because of the six planning regions in Colorado, this money came from none of them. A list of projects included in the second version of this funding source, known as the 2003 Strategic Investment Plan – tentatively termed the “8th Pot” – will be finalized by this summer.

These projects must meet certain criteria, including having statewide significance.

As it stands now, the Highway 82 relocation is ranked No. 5 for the Intermountain Transportation Planning Region’s 8th Pot list and has a chance of making it onto the statewide list.

The system works like this: First, projects are prioritized locally by cities and counties. Next, larger groups get together – in Glenwood Springs’ case, that group is the Intermountain TPR – to rank projects from a larger area. Next, the projects are prioritized by region; for Glenwood Springs, that would be CDOT’s Region 3. In the last cut, projects are ranked in order of statewide importance and the lucky ones are placed on the STIP.

According to a letter written in March by Intermountain TPR chairman Mick Ireland, the planning region’s 8th Pot projects were ranked as follows:

1. Entrance to Aspen

2. Roaring Fork Transportation Authority corridor investment study

3. Improvements to State Highway 9 from Breckenridge to Frisco

4. West Garfield County improvements along Interstate 70

5. Relocation of Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs

“You’ll know soon because we’re adopting the Eighth Pot this summer,” Dugan told the council about the fate of the 82 relocation.

In the March letter, Ireland elaborated on the projects.

On the Highway 82 relocation, he wrote, “This project was ranked fourth by Garfield County … It may still be in our interests to pass it on to the (Transportation Commission). since it may emerge in some other form, perhaps as a bridge replacement.”

The bridge replacement he wrote about would be a new Roaring Fork River bridge near the current configuration of the Eighth Street Bridge.

On the I-70 improvements in western Garfield County, he wrote, “This project was Garfield County’s second choice behind (Highway) 133 bridge and interchange. It might make the 2003 list although the (Transportation Commission) seemed to be looking for a very short list.”

Even if a project doesn’t make it into the 8th Pot list, Dugan urged the city leaders to stay vigilant because things tend to change quickly.

City Councilmen Dan Richardson and Dave Merritt offered their take on Monday’s meeting.

“I think it’s certainly a possibility to get funding in the future, but I fear it may be several years out,” Richardson said. “(Dugan) said we might know by summer.”

Merritt said it was “interesting but depressing” when looking at the impacts of the state budget on Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley.

City manager Mike Copp, however, expressed a bit more optimism about the city’s chances of receiving funds for the highway relocation.

“I think it will get to the state level and we’ll continue to stay involved in the process,” he said.

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