■ Learn more about the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation at www.steamboatpilo...
■ Learn more about the Let’s Vote issue committee, opposing the Steamboat 700 annexation, at https://letsvoteno.com
■ Learn more about the Good For Steamboat committee, supporting the Steamboat 700 annexation, at www.good4steamboat.com
■ Learn more about plans for recommended traffic improvements on U.S. Highway 40 on the west side of Steamboat Springs at www.us40west.com/
By the numbers
Average daily trips on U.S. Highway 40:
Location Now 2035*
Brandon Circle 13,874 25,111
Sleepy Bear 14,340 25,956
Elk River Road 20,966 37,949
13th Street 31,282 45,359
Source: U.S. Highway 40 NEPA study
Vote on 700
■ Ballots for the mail —only election will be sent to registered Steamboat Springs voters between Feb. 15 and 19. The election ends March 9.
■ Steamboat 700 is a proposed master —planned community on 487 acres adjacent to the western city limits of Steamboat Springs. The project proposes about 2,000 homes — from apartments to single —family home lots — and 380,000 square feet of commercial development that would be built to the standards of new urbanism (dense, walkable and transit —friendly).
Steamboat Springs Depending on whom you ask, the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation is either the cause of or the solution to future traffic problems and infrastructure needs west of downtown.
Both sides are passionate about their arguments.
Opponents of Steamboat 700 point to the annexation’s projected 2,000 homes and corresponding vehicle trips, impacts to traffic and parking in downtown Steamboat Springs, inadequate intersections on U.S. Highway 40 at Elk River Road and 13th Street — site of the much-discussed “bottleneck” of traffic entering downtown — and the uncertainty of future state and federal funding for road improvements needed to handle increased use of U.S. 40.
“What is the impact on tourism and the ‘Western-town feel’ if traffic on Lincoln (Avenue) doubles? What is the impact on tourism and residents if the annexation agreement leads to major backups at 13th Street, parking nightmares and long delays at other stoplights downtown?” Tim Rowse, of the Let’s Vote group opposing the annexation, said last week. “When voting on an issue of this magnitude, unintended consequences must be considered.”
Supporters of the annexation say increased traffic will be a result of inevitable growth, whether that growth is in Hayden, Craig or Steamboat 700. The annexation, supporters said, would provide the best solution for mitigating traffic impacts by placing amenities including a grocery store, office space and a community center west of downtown; by providing funding for expansions of mass transit and for pedestrian pathways connecting downtown with the Silver Spur subdivision; and by paying a required 77 percent of U.S. 40 improvements from 12th Street to Steamboat West Boulevard the entrance to the proposed annexation.
Steamboat 700’s share of U.S. 40 improvement costs, required by the development’s annexation agreement with the city and estimated by the Fox Higgins Transportation Group, falls between $30.1 million and $43.2 million, depending on future construction costs, final designs and other factors.
Chris Puckett, of the Good For Steamboat committee supporting the annexation, emphasized that Steamboat 700 has a 20- to 30-year timeframe for development.
“The big difference between perception and reality is that all this isn’t going to happen right away — this is a phased project that’s coming in over time,” Puckett said last week. He said Steamboat 700 projects about 100 homes per year. U.S. 40 improvements are phased with that development.
“Steamboat 700 has a lot of money pledged to help with those (improvements), and without it there is no help … pledged with any other entity,” Puckett said last week.
Registered voters in city limits will decide the issue within a matter of weeks. Ballots for the mail-only vote on Steamboat 700 and its annexation agreement will be mailed to city voters between Feb. 15 and 19. The election ends March 9.
Steamboat 700 proposes about 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on a 487-acre site just west of current city limits.
Money trail is muddy
Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts acknowledged Puckett’s point earlier this month, saying “there aren’t any secured revenue streams” for U.S. 40 projects west of downtown.
Roberts and Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said the future of transportation funding largely depends on a reauthorization of the omnibus federal transportation bill.
If that occurs, Roberts said, “we will apply every year for (federal) funding, but there’s no way to predict what schedule and what amounts those dollars will come in.”
“The target is to try to have those funds come in incrementally, and you will keep pace with what would be normal traffic growth,” Roberts continued. “Without Steamboat 700, there’s still going to be a growth in traffic, and we would certainly hope the revenues come in to keep pace with traffic growth.”
Steamboat 700’s contributions to U.S. 40 projects are part of an estimated $72 million, adjusted for inflation, in capital project funding from the annexation’s developers.
Steamboat 700 would advance $5.5 million for U.S. 40 improvements before development of its first unit. That would be followed by 77 percent of funding for phased U.S. 40 work from 12th Street to Steamboat West Boulevard, designed according to last year’s National Environmental Protection Act study. Although that study is in draft form and pending federal approval, much of the work involves widening the highway to four lanes of through traffic and adding multiuse pedestrian pathways. City public works engineer Laura Anderson said pedestrian underpasses are planned for major intersections on U.S. 40 west of Steamboat.
Steamboat 700’s share of improvement costs is required at various phases of development — funds for the Downhill Drive to Curve Court improvements on U.S. 40, for example, are required at 250 dwelling units — and the full funding is required before Steamboat 700 development can continue beyond each phase.
The annexation agreement assigns the remainder of U.S. 40 funding to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and other potential annexations west of Steamboat, such as 360 Village. If funds from those sources aren’t available, the agreement requires Steamboat 700 to front the remaining costs — for which it would be reimbursed — before development can continue.
“They may have to front more money than (the 77 percent), even though they could be reimbursed for it,” Anderson said. “No matter what it costs, they just have to build it before they can get the next round of approvals.”
Steamboat 700 principal and project manager Danny Mulcahy agreed that full funding for improvements must be available at each phase before development can continue.
“If I want to continue on with construction, yes,” Mulcahy said. “If I have to get something done, it has to get done one way or another.”
Work also is slated for ancillary roadways including Routt County Road 129, known as Elk River Road, and C.R. 42. The annexation agreement requires Steamboat 700 to pay lesser shares of costs for work on ancillary roadways. Steamboat 700 must pay 30 percent of costs, for example, for shoulder work and sidewalks on Downhill Drive from U.S. 40 to C.R. 129, at 390 dwelling units.
Steamboat Springs City Councilman Jim Engelken said Steamboat 700’s transportation funding would only help mitigate its traffic impacts and would not at all be a net benefit to the city.
“The city does not need 700 for anything,” Engelken said last week. U.S. 40 “is a state highway, and (improvements) should be provided by the state as the state has enough revenues to do it.”
Philo Shelton, the city’s public works director, maintained the city’s position that Steamboat 700’s share of funding makes the annexation neutral with regard to its impacts.
“At some point, some improvements are needed in the short term, but it might not be needed at all if you don’t have some of the development — we haven’t explored that scenario at all,” Shelton said, adding that work is needed on U.S. 40’s intersections with C.R. 129 and 13th Street regardless of Steamboat 700. “Once the NEPA (study) is approved, that would allow the city to proceed with those improvements with or without 700, if the funding allows.”
Mitsch Bush said in coming years, federal and state transportation funding will be unreliable.
“There’s a very unpredictable flow of money,” Mitsch Bush said. “That’s a real basic, structural issue with transportation funding that has to be fixed.”