Towns’ experimental takeover of Highway 6 hits roadblock
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Eagle and Gypsum officials thought they had an opportunity to take control of Highway 6, but that plan fizzled.
Last month, town officials discussed whether to partake in a state pilot program that would have transferred control of Highway 6 from the state to local governments.
The state would have given Eagle and Gypsum $11.76 million to cover 20 years worth of maintenance on the road.
However, the $20 million the state earmarked for such projects has been allocated to other roads, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. The Highway 6 project had been the state’s top priority for the funding until the transportation commission late last month ordered a study looking at the rate of return on the various projects under consideration for the money, she said.
As a result of that study, the Highway 6 project dropped to No. 7 on the state’s list of priorities for the pilot program, Shanks said. Only the top six projects on the list have been granted funding.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get it, but if there’s another opportunity, I’m sure we’ll be trying for it,” Gypsum Town Councilman Tom Edwards said.
The notion of taking over Highway 6 had appealed to Edwards for several reasons. He believes Gypsum would have had more flexibility when it came to road projects. For instance, the town could add a traffic light without waiting a long time for state approval, wading through paperwork or racking up extra engineering fees the state requires, he said. Also the town could control which roads connect to Highway 6 and make the final call on road widening.
“In the future, if the towns of Gypsum or Eagle decided to widen the highway, that would be entirely up to them,” Edwards said.
A concern had been driving Gypsum’s interest in the project. Officials are worried the state will eventually relinquish control of Highway 6 without giving the towns any money to maintain it.
Eagle officials are less concerned about the state handing over the responsibility of Highway 6 without any funding attached.
“There’s a slight philosophical difference between the two boards,” Eagle Mayor Pro Tem Kraige Kinney said. “The Gypsum board and their staff [are] concerned that this highway would just be dumped on both of our laps with no money changing hands. I think that’s unlikely. I think politically, that would be a nightmare for the representatives and the senators from the state house to try and do that. The Eagle town board didn’t feel that was something that was going to occur as quickly as some people thought it was going to occur.”
Kinney had been interested in the pilot program but said a number of questions lingered. For instance, he said the town might eventually want to realign the angles of the roads that intersect with Highway 6 to 90-degree angles. Presently, many of the roads link up to Highway 6 at smaller angles, making it hard to see oncoming traffic. He said it was unclear whether the towns could make that change if they participated in the state pilot program.
A concern Kinney harbored is that someday, the towns might have to widen a stretch of Highway 6 called the narrows. Kinney doubted the $11.76 million payment included that potentially expensive project. If those questions could be cleared up, though, Kinney sees benefits to taking over Highway 6 if a similar opportunity opens up.
“If we own it, we control it,” he said. “If those questions are answered, there’s a lot of things where we don’t have to ask permission from the state to make improvements. We can better serve what the citizens of Eagle are looking for rather than what the state is looking for.”
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