Transportation goals laid out

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Northwest Colorado transportation officials are prioritizing $330 million worth of transportation projects needed in the next 25 years under the constraints of a $40 million budget.

Today, they will ask residents for opinions on which projects are most important.

On Thursday, that community input will be used to help the Northwest Regional Transportation Commission prioritize the projects.

"If somebody has a major road concern, this is the time to make it known," said Kim Symalla, Steamboat Springs transit assistant.

The prioritization comes as part of writing the state's 2030 Transportation Plan, which should be completed this September, said Phil Anderson, senior transportation planner with the URS Corporation in Denver.

Because of state legislation in 1991, each of 15 transportation regions across the state has to develop a transportation plan, which then become components of the state plan. To meet that goal, the Northwest Transportation Region, which comprises Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Grand counties, has held several public meetings over the past nine months and hired URS to write the plan.

Today's meeting will have an open-house format, giving residents a chance to look over maps detailing issues such as high accident rates, highway stretches that have too few lanes, areas that see high truck traffic and areas with and without shoulders.

"What we're trying to do is tie all of these improvements to objective highway information," Anderson said.

About $17.5 million for regional projects has been granted for state roads in the next five or so years, including $9 million to improve 16 miles of Colorado Highway 131 from Routt County Road 18 to Oak Creek.

The Routt County projects that will be on the table for prioritization include reconstruction of U.S. Highway 40 from Mount Harris cliffs to east of Hayden and from Muddy Pass to east of Kremmling, shoulders and truck ramps on Rabbit Ears Pass, and work on Colo. 131 from Oak Creek to Yampa and farther south.

Anderson will present public comments from today's meeting, as well as from previous meetings in Hot Sulphur Springs and Meeker, to the regional transportation commission Thursday as the prioritization begins.

The next steps include meeting with several other regional transportation commissions in Grand Junction in mid-April and reprioritizing all of the projects, Anderson said.

Although the funds available are low, there is a chance funding could increase during the next 25 years, he said.

"If more money comes in, since we have the prioritized list, we just go down the list to the next project," Anderson said.

The public open house is from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Centennial Hall in downtown Steamboat Springs. The prioritization meeting starts at 10 a.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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