Silt seeks funding for LOVA trail section
If funding efforts for the coming phases of a trail planned to stretch from Glenwood Springs to Parachute go accordingly, the town of Silt should eventually become an official stop along the way.
Right now, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Lower Valley Trail officials are facing a 25-30% increase in costs due to delays in constructing two sections of pathway between West Glenwood Springs, South Canyon and New Castle.
For Silt, the plan is for an additional trail section to be built between town and Coal Ridge High School toward the east. But doing so requires Silt staff to request funding from the Garfield County commissioners next month, Town Manager Jeff Layman said on Friday.
“One of the things we’re sort of excited about is infrastructure money coming from Washington,” Layman said. “The town can’t do it by itself, so we have to go out for a grant.”
Silt has so far devised a possible route to connect a trail to Coal Ridge, Layman said. The trail would run parallel to U.S. Highway 6 along its north edge before connecting to Silt at Davis Point Road.
To do so would possibly mean either having to shift Highway 6 to the south to accommodate a recreational grade at the same level as the roadway or cutting into Davis Point slightly, which would raise the grade above the highway, Layman said.
Layman said the town needs to connect with its engineers and have them review the engineering concepts that have already been put forth for the trail.
“The one advantage I think we have going for us, obviously there’s a new roundabout there in Silt at Highway 6 and North Overo Boulevard,” Layman said. “As a result of that roundabout going in, the speed limits on Highway 6 have been reduced there, so it really makes an at-grade recreation path probably a little more palatable.”
“I think the one thing that Silt is most interested in is the safety of kids who either walk or ride their bikes from Silt to Coal Ridge High School,” Layman said. “And those kids go there not just for school but a whole myriad of activities.”
But building Silt’s section of the LOVA sequentially is at the mercy of preceding sections.
Jeanne Golay, the executive director for the nonprofit LOVA Trails Group, was before the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board on Thursday giving an update on the trail-building efforts. She also prepared the intergovernmental transit and trails agency for another funding request after the first of the year.
“We have two large, grant-funded projects in play that are about to go to bid before the end of the year,” Golay said.
The second of those projects — a fairly technical, 850-linear-foot “Meet Me in the Middle” section along the riverbank in South Canyon to a lookout point over the Colorado River just west of Glenwood — is heavily dependent on the other being completed by next June before it can proceed, Golay said.
That first project — a trail connection from Canyon Creek west to New Castle — is less technical and not as expensive, but bureaucratically complicated due to multiple property owners near the Interstate 70 interchange, Golay said.
Negotiations between the trails group and the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which has its offices there, and the Union Pacific Railroad, have been necessary to accommodate the trail alignment, she said.
“There’s very little room for a 10-foot-wide path there, which has been a large cause of the delays we’ve experienced,” Golay said.
During that time, a $500,000 CPW Colorado the Beautiful grant awarded for the trail project in 2018 has already been extended once with a completion date of June 30, 2022. In the meantime, some of CDOT’s procedures have also changed, she added.
“And we’re seeing a 25-30% cost escalation,” Golay said. That could tack on another $500,000 to $600,000 to the roughly $2 million budget for the two projects combined, she said.
Voters in the RFTA district, which stretches from Aspen to New Castle, excluding the unincorporated parts of Garfield County, in 2018 approved a major property tax measure to improve bus transportation services and build trail connections.
The LOVA trail was earmarked for $2 million of those “Destination 2040” funds, but only $175,000 has been allocated so far, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said.
That money was used to match a $700,000 Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant for the “Meet Me in the Middle” project.
Timing is everything to proceed with both trail projects in succession next year, Golay said.
The CPW grant also serves as a match for the FMLD grant for the other stretch. So, if that grant is lost, “It jeopardizes this project, as well,” Golay explained. The FMLD grant was also extended, and work on the South Canyon section is to be completed by Dec. 1, 2022, she said.
“We will have a better idea of the amount of the shortfall once bids are received,” Golay added.
The LOVA board expects to be back before the RFTA board in February with a specific request to make up that shortfall, she said.
The much larger LOVA Trail project envisions an uninterrupted series of trail connections through western Garfield County, eventually tying into existing Mesa County trails to the Utah state line.
Another local segment, from the lookout point west of Glenwood Springs to South Canyon where another short trail section already exists, is about 70-80% planned, but does not have construction funding, Golay said. That section will involve a cantilevered trail with large retaining walls between I-70 and the river.
Blankenship said a combination of additional state grant funding and possible federal infrastructure dollars are being eyed to complete what’s expected to be a total $20 million cost for the South Canyon stretch.
Likewise, preliminary work is being done to connect a trail from New Castle to the high school.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
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