I-70 coalition gets down to the nitty-gritty | PostIndependent.com
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I-70 coalition gets down to the nitty-gritty

GRAND COUNTY – While many towns along Interstate 70 want to increase its capacity, Glenwood Springs city council member Dave Merritt says that will have consequences for his town, at the far end of the corridor being studied for potential improvements.”I’m concerned about taking the pressure off,” Merritt, who is also the chief engineer for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said. Increasing the flow on the highway could bring a sudden and uncontrolled surge of growth and increased traffic, like the spluttering spray of water that comes from a garden hose after the kinks are straightened out, he explained.”For Glenwood, it’s a balancing act,” Merritt said during the opening phases of a two-day summit dedicated to forging a unified regional I-70 corridor transportation plan.Representatives from 26 different town and county jurisdictions are attending the two-day session at the SilverCreek Lodge and Conference Center, with the lofty goal of finding regional consensus on a visionary, 50-year transit plan for the corridor. CDOT projections show dramatic increases in traffic volume on the highway in coming decades, so that even with proposed improvements, travel times between many destinations will remain the same as they are now, only with more cars able to make the trip.Among the big concerns for Glenwood Springs is the connection to the resort corridor up the Roaring Fork Valley to Aspen, Merritt said. While Pitkin County Commissioners pointed out that many of Aspen’s guests are destination visitors, Merritt said it’s important not to forget the important flow of resort service workers who need to get from I-70 into the Roaring Fork Valley.Merritt said the town is insisting that any sort of long-range mass transit system extend as far as Glenwood Springs, and not end at the Eagle County Airport, as is under discussion.Planning the future of Interstate 70 through the mountain corridor west of Denver is a little like playing Candy Land, said CDOT Region 1 director Jeff Kullman, referring to the popular board game that involves a chancy quest for a make-believe chocolate kingdom. “It’s similar process right here,” Kullman said. “You draw a card. Sometimes you go forward, sometimes you go back five steps, sometimes you have to do a loop. Our goal is to draw that right card to get to Candy Land – whatever that might be,” Kullman said.Kullman said the only way to do projects like the I-70 mountain corridor is in “big chunks.” He said that in order to get priority funding for I-70 work, there needs to be widespread support from the many different entities involved. Kullman used the U.S. Highway 36 planning effort as an example.”They’ve been able to put their project to the head of the heap,” Kullman said.CDOT is looking for a solid plan, Kullman said, asking members of the coalition to “be specific and fact-based … to make sure that the plan addresses the problem … and that it’s technically, environmentally and financially logical,” he said. CDOT is looking for a solid plan, Kullman said, asking members of the coalition to “be specific and fact-based … to make sure that the plan addresses the problem … and that it’s technically, environmentally and financially logical,” he said.


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