Discussions stall on level of Airport Road improvements
Airport Road in Rifle will be improved, that is certain. What remains undecided is whether the busiest part will be widened to three lanes or four.
Monday the Garfield County Commissioners, representatives of the city of Rifle and developer Bob Howard debated options for creating a better Airport Road.
The improvements are driven by burgeoning commercial development along Airport Road south of Rifle.
Howard holds over 300 acres next door to the airport, which will be developed for commercial use.
To spur the road improvement, which is crucial to the future of his own plans, Howard has promised to give the county 10 acres of land adjacent to the airport for every one of the four planned road improvement phases that is accomplished, said county administrator Ed Green.
“Obviously the development of the road benefits the airport,” as well as Howard’s development, said Rifle attorney Lee Leavenworth. “We view this project as everybody walks away winning.”
The first phase of the project would pave and widen Airport Road for two miles from the middle of Rifle Business Park to the intersection of West Mamm Creek Road, Green said.
In the second phase, one mile of the road would be paved from West Mamm Creek Road to the east end of the airport property.
Paving of half a mile of Airport Road from the end of the phase two segment to its intersection with East Mamm Creek Road is slated for phase three.
Phase four calls for paving about one mile of West Mamm Creek Road from Airport Road south, Green said.
Each phase would be allotted $600,000 from a $2.4 million energy impact grant the county hopes to get from the state Department of Local Affairs.
Under consideration Monday was the first phase of the project, the only phase to be jointly funded by the county and the city of Rifle.
Rifle has agreed to put up $200,000 toward the improvements, Green said.
Green admitted the $600,000 as well as Rifle’s $200,000 probably won’t cover the total cost of phase one.
“The county will probably have to put in some money,” he said.
Commissioner Larry McCown said if the grant doesn’t come through, “I don’t think we would pursue it at all. It would be too much of an impact on the road and bridge fund.”
Leavenworth, Rifle city manager Selby Myers, Howard and the county commissioners could not agree on just how extensive improvements should be in the first phase of the Airport Road project.
“The master plan shows a four lane divided parkway,” Myers said. “We backed off that for Taughenbaugh to the middle of the business park to a three lane.”
McCown, who lives in Rifle, argued that a third lane does not help move traffic but acts only as a turning lane.
“Garfield County historically has not been in the business of building three-lane roads,” he said. “But it might be necessary up to the `Y’ at the end of the industrial development.”
The `Y’ McCown referred to is the intersection of county roads 346 and 319. At that point, 319 proceeds uphill to the airport and 346 runs east parallel to Interstate 70.
Howard also argued for extending the three lanes up to the airport itself, but he admitted it may not handle the traffic generated when his parcel is developed.
“At some point I’m sure four lanes will be required,” he said.
Leavenworth suggested the city and county engineers get together and work out a design for the first phase of the road improvement project.
The topic will be discussed again at the commissioners’ March 4 meeting at 10 a.m. with a view to crafting an intergovernmental agreement between Rifle, Garfield County and Howard’s company Airport Land Partners over the four-phase road improvement plan.
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Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org