Referendum would fund road projects

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Several highways in Northwest Colorado are slated for major improvements if voters statewide approve two ballot measures in November.

Colorado Highway 131 south of Oak Creek, Colo. 9 near Kremmling and Colo. 13 in Moffat County are among projects the Colorado Department of Transportation has earmarked for a portion of funds from Referendum C.

That measure would allow the state to spend $3.1 billion in revenue during the next five years that otherwise would be refunded to taxpayers under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. A companion measure, Referendum D, would authorize CDOT to issue as much as $1.7 billion in bonds for highway projects.

For the past two months, CDOT and 15 transportation districts have worked to finalize a list of about 60 high-need projects.

The plan calls for reconstructing and widening about 11 miles of Colo. 9 between Kremmling and Summit County and a portion of U.S. Highway 40 between Kremmling and Wolford Mountain Reservoir.

The plan also would reconstruct and widen five miles of Colo. 13 south of the Wyoming state line in Moffat County.

That project has been on the list of needed road improvements in the region for at least six years, said Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison, who is co-chairman of the Northwest Colorado Transportation Planning Region.

Colo. 13 has not seen significant improvements since the early 1950s, making it among the older roads not designed to accommodate wider cars and large trucks.

"With today's traffic, it's really pushing it, because you don't have much margin for error," Ellison said.

The same is true for the Colo. 131 bridge between Oak Creek and Phippsburg, which is among the bridges in Colorado that will be replaced if voters approve the ballot measures.

The bridge, built in the 1930s, is narrow and in poor shape, said Rich Perske, CDOT program engineer for Northwest Colorado.

Perske has worked with the NCTPR, which includes Routt, Moffat, Jackson, Rio Blanco and Grand counties. The board meets regularly to discuss road improvements in the region based on safety concerns and demands on high-traffic corridors.

For potential Referendum C and D projects, the group selected parts of large-scale projects that likely wouldn't be funded with the department's regular annual funding.

"That's the real advantage of this referendum," Perske said. "Without it, these projects we're describing won't happen for a long time."

Based on the current market, CDOT estimates it would issue about $1.2 billion in bonds, which will just begin to fill a huge highway-funding shortfall exacerbated by economic dips and cuts in state funding, CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said.

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