Transportation discussed

Representatives talk about local, state issues at annual conference

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Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger was re-elected to the board of directors for Colorado Counties Inc. during the organization's annual conference last week.

Monger said the "hugely under-funded" state transportation system was an eye-opening topic of discussion at the conference.

"Basically, the state is continually facing a reduced level of service for every person that moves into our state," Monger said.

Representatives from most of Colorado's 63 counties met for three days at the conference to discuss local and state issues. Monger and Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, along with several other county officials, attended the conference.

Monger said information presented at the conference showed the state's transportation needs are being under funded at the rate of about $250 million per year. That, added to current state budget challenges created by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and Amendment 23, creates big problems, Monger said.

"Basically, we're heading for a big train wreck," he said.

"Wish list" road improvements, such as reconstructing more of Colorado Highway 131 or creating a second major east-west route across the state, have no chance of happening until the budget situation improves, he said.

The recent rockslide in Glenwood Canyon that forced drivers to detour for a few hundred miles was a good "wake up" call for the need for another major road artery across the state, Ellison said.

The role of Routt County government officials is to continue to make the public aware of the budget challenges and be active in learning about and supporting efforts to improve the situation, Monger said.

County representatives also talked about how the state's budget problems affect counties when the state has to cut a service that is expected but not required. In that instance, the public expects local governments to provide the service, Monger said. An example in Routt County is recent cuts for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

How counties could be prepared for and protected from those changes was one issue discussed at the conference, Monger said.

Also important was the chance to get to know other public officials from across the state, he said. Almost 80 new commissioners attended the conference.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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