Road funds assigned

Steamboat projects appear on lower-priority lists for stimulus money

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— State officials have finalized the first set of road projects that are guaranteed to get federal stimulus money, and no Steamboat Springs-area proposals are among them.

Some local requests made the second- and third-tier lists, however. The Transportation Commission approved the "A" list, the highest-priority projects, and Gov. Bill Ritter certified it this month. Of more than $300 million for those projects, $47.8 million will go to Region 3, which includes Northwest Colorado.

Steamboat's proposals don't appear until the "B" and "C" lists. Lincoln Avenue improvements and two projects on Colorado Highway 131 are on the "B" list, and U.S. Highway 40 west of Steamboat is on the "C" list.

"The more of these projects that go, the more jobs we can save and, better yet, create," Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

She has helped prioritize the projects as part of the Northwest Transportation Planning Region and the Statewide Transportation Advisory Committee. Planners from municipalities across the state have been proposing and prioritizing transportation projects for years, she said.

The Northwest TPR consists of Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Jackson and Grand counties.

"We're lucky because we've got this bottom up, local to regional to statewide planning process," Mitsch Bush said. Ritter certified but did not select the "A" list projects, she said.

In the first round of funding, Region 3 is slated to receive $46.1 million for road and bridge projects and $1.7 million for enhancement projects. Pedestrian- and bicycle-related plans are part of the enhancement category, Mitsch Bush said.

Routt County's projects on the "B" list include downtown Lincoln Avenue improvements. The project is already in CDOT's budget and scheduled to begin this fall, but the city still is seeking stimulus funding.

The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires projects to move quickly. Proposals must be submitted for contractor bids by July 1, Regional CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said.

"As these are awarded, we'll also have information on where the contractor is from, where the subcontractor is from and how many people are put to work," Shanks said.

She also noted that the economic benefits would include lodging, food and gas purchases by construction workers.

States that don't meet federal deadlines could lose funding, Mitsch Bush said, adding that some of that money could find its way to Colorado "B" and "C" projects. Those proposals also could get funding if something stymies a Colorado project and it needs to be replaced, Shanks said.

Funding could come their way if stimulus money frees up cash initially slated for "A" list projects, some of which have been planned for years, Mitsch Bush said.

"Somehow, those projects on the 'B' list are probably going to be funded," Mitsch Bush said.

On the "B" list are chip seals and preventative maintenance for the U.S. 40 and Colo. 131 intersection and improvements to Colo. 131 south of Steamboat. The latter would add eight-foot shoulders and climbing lanes to a five-mile stretch of road.

"That will make it much nicer both for motorized vehicles and also for bicycles," Mitsch Bush said.

The Lincoln Avenue upgrades would cost $10.9 million, the chip seal would cost $2.5 million and the Colo. 131 improvements would cost $6.8 million.

Many "C" list projects are not as far along in the planning stages, Mitsch Bush said. The list includes work on Colorado Highway 13 north of Craig, resurfacing and shoulder widening on Muddy Pass and the first phase of U.S. 40 west of Steamboat.

If the "B" projects get funding, some of those "C" projects probably will, too, Mitsch Bush said.

"There are still lots of question marks, which are probably, in the next six weeks or so, going to become much clearer, particularly in terms of the 'B' and 'C' lists," she said.

- To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234 or e-mail bterrell@steamboatpilot.com

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