Garfield County hesitant to commit to South Bridge funding for Glenwood Springs
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Two of the three Garfield County commissioners say they may not be willing to partner up with the city of Glenwood Springs to obtain funding for construction of the South Bridge project, at least not now.
City officials were recently informed by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) that the South Bridge project is among four city projects selected to apply for funding through the state’s new Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program.
Other projects still in the mix, and which Glenwood Springs City Council will prioritize at its regular Thursday meeting, are a proposed grade-separated bike path crossing at 27th Street and South Glen/Highway 82, improvements along Highway 6 & 24 in West Glenwood, and improvements to the 12th Street underpass.
The application deadline for the RAMP funds is July 1.
To bolster the local funding match for the estimated $39 million South Bridge project, the city is seeking a letter of support from the county, plus a 10 percent financial commitment, or $3.9 million.
If successful, the project could receive up to $30 million in state funds to complete the connection from South Midland Avenue and Airport Road to a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River and signalized intersection at State Highway 82.
“South Bridge started as a safety project, but now it is viewed as a critical infrastructure project for the city as well,” said Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch at the Monday commissioners meeting.
A southern connection from the Glenwood Park area and the Four Mile corridor to Highway 82 was first proposed following the Coal Seam Fire in 2002, as a secondary evacuation route in the event of future wildfires.
Through the efforts of then 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis, the project received a $4.5 million federal earmark for planning and eventual construction. Most of that money was used to prepare a required environmental assessment.
The project would include a roundabout at the intersection of Midland, Four Mile Road and Airport Road, and a major upgrade of Airport Road.
A preferred route calls for extending the road beneath the south end of the city airport runway to a new bridge and connection to Highway 82 just south of the Holy Cross Energy headquarters.
“It is an expensive project, but we believe it is a critical project to bring to the county,” Partch said, adding the project would likely be completed in phases over several years.
County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who represented Sunlight Mountain Resort on the original citizens committee that looked at the South Bridge route, said it’s an opportunity the county shouldn’t pass up.
“This is a unique enough project that I’m willing to look at going into our reserves to get this done, if it were to be funded [by the state],” Jankovsky said. “Our support of this would give it a much higher chance of being approved.”
But, with a total of nine projects throughout Garfield County in New Castle, Rifle and Carbondale potentially vying for RAMP funds, Commissioner Mike Samson of Rifle said he wasn’t ready to commit to the South Bridge project.
“I need to know what we anticipate from these other municipalities [in the way of matching fund requests],” Samson said. “We have tried to be fair in helping all of the municipalities when it comes to these funds.”
Moreover, with a projected $15 million decline in property tax revenues for the county in 2014, the county is looking to rein in spending on capital projects in general, Samson said.
“I just don’t know how far that money can stretch, and I don’t want to put Garfield County in a bad position,” he said.
Commission Chairman John Martin said he would also like to see a “master plan” of all transportation-related projects the county is considering funding over the next couple of years. That includes the county’s own road and bridge projects, he said.
The commissioners scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. Monday, June 24, to further discuss the city’s proposal.
Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney urged the commissioners to consider the value of pooling city, county and state funding to begin work on the South Bridge project.
“This is an opportunity to help us address some serious transportation issues,” McKinney said. “I would appeal to your businessman’s sense, and ask you to consider the bang for the buck this project could bring to city residents and county residents.”
“I think we need to support Glenwood Springs in this,” he said. “It’s just a good way to try to leverage funds.”
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