CDOT could delay US 40 repair

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Winter travel tips

- Visit the Colorado Department of Transportation's winter driving Web page at www.dot.state.co.... for tips, road conditions and other information, or call 511 for statewide road conditions.

- Always keep the top half of your gas tank full. It can give you better traction and gives you a bigger margin of error if you get stuck and have to keep the engine running periodically to keep warm. If you are stuck in a serious storm, do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.

- Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel and some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle's safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables, an ice scraper and lock de-icer.

- Remember that four-wheel drive does not mean four-wheel stop. A four-wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better in icy conditions, especially if you have inadequate snow tires.

- Be sure of your route. Don't go exploring in the backcountry without some local knowledge, especially during a storm or when one is bearing down anywhere near your location.

- Be sure you have good tires. The Colorado State Patrol recommends at least 1/8-inch tread depth. All-season radials on a front-wheel drive passenger vehicle are adequate for most situations. Install them on all four tires. Four snow tires on most rear-wheel drive vehicles are usually adequate. Chain restrictions in Colorado are most often put into effect for commercial vehicles and do not usually affect passenger vehicles.

- In poor visibility or even whiteout conditions, don't drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents. Remember you can't see around mountain curves and corners, either.

- In addition to these winter driving tips, CDOT reminds all motorists to respect winter weather, conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road, and never drink and drive. Of course, always buckle up.

Source: CDOT

— The troubled economy, coupled with a Colorado Department of Transportation Commission decision to favor snow and ice removal ahead of pavement maintenance, could delay a major overhaul of U.S. Highway 40 in downtown Steamboat Springs.

The city of Steamboat Springs has been conducting and planning its own projects in anticipation of the concrete repaving of Lincoln Avenue. The project was scheduled for 2009, but CDOT officials said this week that the project could be delayed another year or more.

"It's possible it could be delayed," said David Eller, a CDOT Region 3 engineer. "Right now, our resurfacing program has been cut for our 2010 budget. We haven't met to figure out how we're going to make up those budget cuts."

CDOT's fiscal year 2010 budget begins in July 2009 and includes the Lincoln Avenue project. Routt County is in CDOT's Region 3. Eller said CDOT, which already was financially strapped, has not been immune to the troubles affecting the broader economy. Gas taxes are CDOT's main source of revenue, and people are driving less to save money.

"We've just experienced some real hits," Eller said. "We're not sure where we'll finally end up."

In Region 3, Eller said the surface treatment budget already has been reduced about $5 million out of a $19 million budget.

The city of Steamboat Springs 2009 capital projects budget largely was influenced by the planned CDOT project. While many other projects were slashed, the city budgeted millions of dollars for projects that must be done either in advance or in conjunction with the Lincoln Avenue overhaul.

"I don't know if it would cause problems for us," City Council President Loui Antonucci said. "It depends on how long it's delayed."

As of last week, funding for the project still was in place and scheduled for fall 2009. And, citing in part the city's collaboration with CDOT, Eller said the Lincoln Avenue project is a high priority.

"It would be one of the last ones we would want to delay for the surface treatment program," Eller said.

Snowplowing

Statewide cuts to the surface treatment program include a decision by the Colorado Transportation Commission this week to move money from that budget into the snow and ice program.

Region 3 Transportation Commissioner George Krawzoff admitted that reducing the surface treatment budget would mean worse long-term effects on the state highway system.

"But the fact is, the public of Colorado needs and demands snowplowing at a certain level," Krawzoff said.

Gov. Bill Ritter's statewide hiring freeze will not affect snowplowing because the freeze does not apply to essential, safety-related jobs, such as snowplow operators.

"Maintenance workers are absolutely essential and not impacted by this freeze," CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said.

Eller noted CDOT's budget talks are ongoing, and current decisions are based on projections. Should CDOT's financial situation worsen, further cuts would be necessary and could further threaten the Lincoln Avenue project or involve the snow and ice budget.

If CDOT were to make the decision not to plow overnight, Eller said it probably would apply only to more rural state highways with low traffic counts. Eller said that in Routt County, for example, night plowing might be eliminated on Colorado Highway 134 over Gore Pass but not on U.S. 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass.

One beacon of hope for CDOT is an economic stimulus package being discussed at the federal level and by President-elect Barack Obama.

"The federal government is also now talking about stimulus packages including transportation infrastructure improvements," Krawzoff said. "It's very hard to tell what the future's going to look like for transportation. : Dramatic things are going to happen."

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