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County says no to road to red ink

The Garfield County commissioners, the city of Rifle and developer Bob Howard failed to cement a plan to improve Airport Road Monday.

It was not the design of the improvements, but funding them that defeated the plan.

However, the commissioners did agree to give the city of Rifle $100,000 towards its improvements on the west end of Airport Road.



Howard plans to develop an industrial park on 300 acres he owns adjacent to the Garfield County Airport. He has offered 40 acres in exchange for county- and city-funded improvements to Airport Road.

The county planned to apply for a $2.4 million energy impact grant from the state Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to fund its share of the improvements. Rifle agreed to kick in $200,000 for the first phase of the project, from the Rifle Business Park to the intersection of West Mamm Creek Road.



Grant applications are due April 3.

The four-phase project will begin at Rifle Business Park on County Road 346 and end at the intersection of Airport Road and East Mamm Creek Road.

But a design and cost estimate for the first phase was too costly. Two versions of road design would have improved the road to three lanes to the intersection of county roads 346 and 319, and two lanes up the hill to the intersection with West Mamm Creek Road.

One version put the cost at $6.2 million and the second at $4.2 million. The second version would have included purchase of road right-of-way to cut into a steep slope around a sharp curve, instead of a more costly retaining wall.

“You’re taking my breath away with these estimates,” said Commissioner John Martin to county engineer Jeff Nelson.

“It took mine away, too,” Nelson said.

For the county, the bottom line was simple.

“We can’t fund that out of the road and bridge department,” said county administrator Ed Green.

The commissioners decided to forgo trying to meet the April 3 grant deadline and instead apply during the August grant cycle.

They also decided to begin construction on the east end of the project, from East Mamm Creek Road to West Mamm Creek Road, as that area would be cheaper to construct than the first phase.

“We’d get the best bang for our buck going that way,” said Commissioner Larry McCown.

Leavenworth said the city will apply for a DOLA grant in April and with that money and its own $200,000 as well as the county’s $100,000, would improve Airport Road as far as that money will take them.

The commissioners also agreed to send a letter of support to DOLA for Rifle’s grant application.


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