There’s a cost to South Bridge funding | PostIndependent.com

There’s a cost to South Bridge funding

Heather McGregor
GSPI Managing Editor

If Congress approves $6.5 million for a new South Bridge in Glenwood Springs, a planned improvement project for Highway 24 in Lake County will lose more than half its federal funding.

Last week, 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, announced he had successfully amended the House version of the Surface Transportation Extension Act, H.R. 3850, earmarking money for the bridge.

The bridge and associated road would create a new link from Airport Road across the Roaring Fork River to Highway 82, in the vicinity of Buffalo Valley restaurant.

McInnis said the South Bridge would provide another exit route for residents of South Glenwood and Four Mile in case of a wildfire. It would also provide a shortcut for those residents to drive upvalley, easing daily traffic pressure on the Sunlight Bridge at 27th Street.

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In an April 9 memo, Lake County intern Christopher Wilborn said the $6.5 million in bridge funding will come at the expense of an $11 million package of improvements to Highway 24 between Leadville and Tennessee Pass, to be done between 2005 and 2010.

Highway 24 is heavily used by commuting resort workers who live in Leadville and work in Vail, Avon and Beaver Creek.

Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacey Stegman confirmed the trade-off. She said an earmarked project like the South Bridge would take funding from what are called formula funds, used to pay for projects on state highways agreed on through a multi-county planning process.

Wilborn’s memo states that after Lake County officials spent nearly 10 years planning for the Highway 24 project and winning support from neighboring counties, McInnis’ earmarking of funds for the South Bridge is a “circumvention of the process that was designed to ensure equitable distribution of funds across the region.”

He said county officials will challenge the move.

McInnis spokesman Blair Jones also confirmed the money earmarked for the bridge will reduce the remaining non-earmarked funding for CDOT projects.

“How CDOT decides to spend that money is up to them. If a couple million is pulled away from a project on the Front Range, so be it,” Jones said.

But CDOT has divided the state into regions for transportation planning, and each is allocated a share of the state’s federal funding. Representatives from neighboring counties in each transportation planning region decide which projects are most important, and agree on a prioritized list.

Meanwhile, more changes could be in store for the federal transportation funding bill.

The Senate version of the bill doesn’t contain the South Bridge earmark, and a conference committee of House and Senate members has yet to be appointed to hammer out this and other differences between the parallel bills.

Contact Heather McGregor: 945-8515, ext. 517

hmcgregor@postindependent.com


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