Transportation funding considered

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Goals for transportation improvements in Northwest Colorado are similar to those outlined five years ago, but a key obstacle is funding.

At a meeting for the committee for the Northwest Transportation Planning Region last week, the region's overall goals and the importance of funding were discussed, Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said.

"The problem that we're facing, of course, at this time, is a lack of money at the state level to really put into transportation," Ellison said.

Ellison represents Routt County on the committee. Representatives from the region's other four counties -- Rio Blanco, Moffat, Jackson and Grand -- also were present at last week's meeting.

The state transportation plan is updated every five years. When the region's final plan is finished next September, it will outline what improvements are needed by 2030.

"It's part of a continuing plan," Ellison said. "You're not going to get them done at once."

Having a regional perspective helps officials make smart decisions about which improvements are most critical and keeps those needs on the radar screen for state funding, he said.

Work on Colorado Highway 9, which links Interstate 70 to U.S. Highway 40 at Kremmling, is high on the region's list of necessary improvements, Ellison said. The highway has become busier over the years and is an important connection between Northwest Colorado and the I-70 corridor.

Another key improvement is continued work on Colorado Highway 131. The section of the road between Steamboat and Catamount Ranch has been widened and improved, and the section to Oak Creek has been scheduled for similar improvements for more than five years.

Those changes have not yet happened because of a lack of funds, Ellison said. Now, the committee is looking at improving the entire road down to the Interstate because of increased traffic. For instance, some Yampa residents travel to the Vail Valley for work each day.

A third improvement is Colorado Highway 13 north of Craig to the Wyoming line, which is an important truck route, Ellison said.

The committee meets every few months and plans to have a preliminary plan finished in time for a public meeting in January. The meeting will be the second such public forum; the first took place in the spring. The last public meeting will be in August, after which the plan will be finalized.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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