Garfield County narrows intersection work priorities to three |

Garfield County narrows intersection work priorities to three

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Three hazardous intersections in Garfield County – two along Highway 82 and one in the I-70 corridor – are now at the top of the county’s priority list, meaning county officials hope to get them redesigned and rebuilt as quickly as possible.

But area motorists should not expect the improvements to be done any time soon, according to Betsy Suerth, the county’s public works director.

A lengthy series of tasks remains, including a right-of-way acquisition process dictated by the Colorado Department of Transportation, and utility realignments, before the county can put the actual highway work out to bid.

“That process can take a year or two,” Suerth said Tuesday, referring just to obtaining the right of way needed to accommodate the redesigned intersection of one of the top three – Cattle Creek Road and Highway 82.

The county has spent more than two years working on a list of improvements to intersections where county roads meet state highways, and has identified more than two dozen intersections that need work.

With an overall price tag of $20 million or more, if all the projects were undertaken and paid for entirely by the county, the intersections represent one of the two most costly public-works efforts on the county’s horizon.

There is a possibility of outside financial participation for some of the intersection projects, noted Dale Hancock, assistant county manager. Private developers building in the vicinity of the intersections might be required to share the costs, he said.

Suerth noted that the intersection projects are likely to be spread over years, if not decades.

The only other project of a similar financial scope, according to county financial analyst Bob Prendergast, is a proposed new county office building for elected officials, which is projected to cost approximately $19 million. Prendergast said the current thinking is that construction on the building would not start before 2014.

On Monday, Suerth presented the Garfield Board of County Commissioners with a list of eight finalist intersection projects costing about $14 million, after narrowing the overall list of 20-some with help from the planning firm Winston Associates and the Schmeuser Gordon Meyer engineering firm.

There was some back-and-forth among the commissioners about which projects should be at the top of the list.

At the beginning of the discussion, the three leading projects were all in the Roaring Fork Valley, which led Commissioner Mike Samson of Rifle to say, “I’d like to see more being done in the west end, to be honest with you.”

He proposed putting the Mamm Creek interchange among the top three on the list, noting that the interchange has a dangerous mix of frontage roads, a bridge over the interstate, curves and heavy industrial traffic.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, whose district includes several of the intersections on the list, including the CMC Turn and Cattle Creek, agreed that Mamm Creek should be one of the top three. With that change, the top three list was approved in a 3-0 vote by the commissioners.

Suerth said that there is still considerable work to be done by the county’s staff on the projects, and predicted that it could be mid-2012 before the top-priority intersection, Cattle Creek, is ready for the bidding process.

When asked if the top three might be done within the next three years or so, Suerth said, “I think it could be even longer than that.”

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