Annexing Steamboat 700 will produce two negative consequences. Traffic congestion will get much worse, increasing downtown drive times, tying up traffic at strategic points and denigrating our quality of life. Additionally, the uncertain funding of capital improvements for transportation infrastructure required by the annexation will burden the city, county and all of us. First, let’s look at this Annexation Agreement and potential costs to the city.
This Annexation Agreement speaks to the transportation plan and required improvements, where it addresses U.S. Highway 40 NEPA improvements requiring a “U.S. Highway 40 Categorical Exclusion study.” This study has not been completed. Without it, how can Steamboat 700, the city and the Colorado Department of Transportation agree on compliance before the public vote?
Schedule F also pertains to traffic and transportation and the city, Steamboat 700, CDOT and Federal Highway Administration sharing the costs of these road infrastructures triggered by amounts of built units.
However, CDOT and FHWA are underfunded and unable to contribute to the city’s share of highway infrastructure costs as described in this Annexation Agreement. A CDOT revenue source — the gas tax — is shrinking because of greater fuel efficiency. Those agencies will not have sufficient funding to maintain our roadway system, much less contribute to the city’s share, ranging from 23 to 70 percent, of the improvement costs for each of 14 multi-million dollar projects of unknown costs described in Annexation Agreement Schedule F.
If Steamboat 700 progresses, it is supposed to pay the remaining balance of these improvements. More significant for city residents, the city and the county will be liable for $35,834,275 for traffic/transportation infrastructure “improvements” ($4,780,275 from Exhibit C, Table 2; $20,179,000 from Exhibit C, Table 3; and $10,875,000 from Exhibit C, Table 3).
Where will the city get these funds? Why did the city enter into this Annexation Agreement without definitive costs determined by independent consultants? Remember, these improvements are only caused by this Annexation Agreement. Without Steamboat 700, these costs are unnecessary.
Everyone deals with traffic congestion. Steamboat 700 will increase our population by nearly 5,000 residents. Steamboat 700 households will make 17,600 to 21,900 more daily trips to downtown and the mountain, increasing traffic congestion by 50 percent. Contrary to Steamboat 700’s arguments, many trips per day from Steamboat 700 are not comparable to single trips per day to commute from Craig and Hayden.
The city’s current situation gives us a glimpse of what we can see if Steamboat 700 is built. Technically, the U.S. 40/Elk River Road intersection is at a point of “failure.” Peak traffic flow during the morning commute routinely causes 20-minute delays for eastbound traffic. Traffic on C.R. 129 also is delayed, especially for those wishing to turn left. In short, this is an undersized intersection. While Steamboat 700 will pay for 77 percent of the upgrade of the C.R. 129/U.S. 40 intersection, the traffic will flow on an upgraded U.S. 40 to 13th Street where the backup will then occur.
What will happen with 45,000 vehicles per day at 13th Street and at peak hours? Admittedly, traffic will continue to increase with U.S. 40 in any event. However, the Steamboat 700 project will accelerate the day when we will be looking at 30- to 40-minute delays during peak-hour travel. Steamboat 700’s commercial area will duplicate the commercial area on the city’s east side creating more traffic through downtown. NEPA calculations did not account for this.
According to Schedule F, Steamboat 700 will pay 25 percent of a “preferred solution” to the looming 13th Street bottleneck if a solution is ever determined. The solution is a city dilemma with an indeterminate price tag. The price could exceed $200 million, who knows. For three decades, the city has commissioned studies and developed 17 full and partial solutions, each with a significant downside. To date, the city has not shown the political will to find a solution.
It is entirely possible we may never select a “preferred solution” for moving the increased traffic load within town, including parking, and through town. If we kick this can down the street, our quality of life will diminish.
Proponents of Steamboat 700 argue that increased public transportation will solve this problem. That argument makes no sense. The two buses Steamboat 700 pays for will not get through the bottleneck. Without a solution, it is valid to delay annexation. Send a message to the City Council — develop a solution before undertaking any annexation. Vote no on annexing Steamboat 700.