Fact check: Steamboat 700 traffic op-eds contained errors | SteamboatToday.com

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Fact check: Steamboat 700 traffic op-eds contained errors

Let’s Vote, Good For Steamboat groups each wrote misleading statements

Online

■ Learn more about the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation from the Steamboat Pilot & Today by clicking here.

■ Learn more about the Let’s Vote issue committee, opposing the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at https://letsvoteno.com.

■ Learn more about the Good For Steamboat committee, supporting the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at http://www.good4steamboat.com.

■ Learn more about plans for recommended traffic improvements on U.S. Highway 40 on the west side of Steamboat Springs at http://www.us40west.com/.

Online

■ Learn more about the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation from the Steamboat Pilot & Today by clicking here.

■ Learn more about the Let's Vote issue committee, opposing the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at https://letsvoteno.com.

■ Learn more about the Good For Steamboat committee, supporting the Steamboat 700 annexation, on the Web at http://www.good4steamboat.com.

■ Learn more about plans for recommended traffic improvements on U.S. Highway 40 on the west side of Steamboat Springs at http://www.us40west.com/.

— Two op-ed pieces published in Sunday's Steamboat Pilot & Today included errors and misleading statements while also presenting valid opposing views about transportation issues related to the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation.

The newspaper began Sunday a series of weekly opinion pieces from the Let's Vote committee and the Good for Steamboat committee, which oppose and support Steamboat 700, respectively. The articles will continue through March 7. That's the Sunday before March 9, when the city's all-mail election deciding the fate of Steamboat 700 ends. Ballots will be sent to registered Steamboat Springs voters between Feb. 15 and 19.

Steamboat 700 has sparked local debate over a broad range of issues related to the annexation's proposed 2,000 homes and 380,000 square feet of commercial space on a 487-acre site just west of current city limits. City planning documents cite a 20- to 30-year timeframe for development.

Sunday's opinion pieces dealt with transportation issues. While each piece included input from several members of its committee, Steamboat 700 principal and project manager Danny Mulcahy said he was the primary author of the Good for Steamboat piece, and local Realtor Bill Moser said he was the primary author of the Let's Vote piece.

Both pieces included incorrect statements.

Good For Steamboat

The sixth and seventh paragraphs of the Good For Steamboat piece stated:

"The annexation agreement prohibits any Steamboat 700 development until existing U.S. 40 traffic problems are fixed and the necessary highway improvements for each phase of Steamboat 700 are in place.

"The plan requires a new U.S. 40-Elk River Road intersection, fully funded by Steamboat 700."

According to Steamboat 700's annexation agreement with the city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat 700 would fund 77 percent — not 100 percent — of the cost to improve the U.S. 40-Elk River Road intersection. The work would be part of the first phase of planned U.S. Highway 40 improvements identified in last year's National Environmental Protection Act, or NEPA, study. The NEPA study estimates a $7.5 million to $8.4 million cost, in 2009 dollars, for improvements to that intersection and its immediate vicinity on U.S. 40.

According to the annexation agreement, Steamboat 700 would fully fund an intersection at U.S. 40 and Steamboat West Boulevard, the planned primary entrance to the development, before building its first unit. Steamboat 700 also would contribute $5.5 million to the city for transportation improvements before building its first unit.

But it's inaccurate to say, as Sunday's Good For Steamboat op-ed did, that any development is prohibited at Steamboat 700 "until U.S. 40 traffic problems are fixed." Road improvements would be phased with development. For example, the full funding — from Steamboat 700 and other sources — for U.S. 40 improvements from Downhill Drive to Curve Court, including the Elk River Road intersection, is needed when Steamboat 700 reaches 250 dwelling units. Full funding for improvements from Curve Court to Dream Island Plaza is needed at 500 dwelling units. Steamboat 700 cannot build beyond those points until the required funding is in place, according to the annexation agreement.

Mulcahy said he was trying to convey that phasing Sunday.

"The sentence is supposed to exhibit that development is contingent upon the identified problems being fixed at the appropriate phase," Mulcahy said. "Could it have been written better? Possibly. … I wouldn't say that it was an overreach. I think it was worded inappropriately."

Good for Steamboat briefly addressed Sunday the "bottleneck" of traffic on U.S. 40 at 13th Street, calling it "a legitimate concern" and stating that "Steamboat 700 is required to provide funding for the eventual solution."

Steamboat 700 is slated to pay 25 percent of the cost for a bottleneck solution, should the city select a preferred alternative and have its share of funding available. Steamboat 700's payment would come anytime after 800 dwelling units, upon city request.

Let's Vote

It was inaccurate for the Let's Vote piece on Sunday to state "the city and the county will be liable for $35,834,275 for traffic/transportation infrastructure 'improvements.'"

The $35.8 million figure is incorrect by at least $15 million.

Let's Vote broke the number down into three segments: $4,780,275 in the annexation agreement's Exhibit C, Table 2; $20,179,000 in Exhibit C, Table 3; and $10,875,000 in Exhibit C, Table 3.

The $4,780,275 figure is a correct addition of listed road improvements on U.S. 40, Elk River Road and Routt County Road 42, but neither the city nor the county is listed as a funding source for those improvements.

The $20,179,000 is a correct addition of costs for three potential projects listed in Exhibit C.

But Moser acknowledged Monday that the third, $10,875,000 figure already was included in the $20,179,000 and was incorrectly added twice, creating the $35 million total.

"We made a math mistake," he said. "We're going to try our best not to have that happen again."

Removing the $4.8 million and the $10.9 million leaves $20,179,000 as potential "city and/or county share" listed in Exhibit C. Those projects include about $4.3 million for a Slate Creek connector road, about $5 million for unspecified U.S. 40 improvements and about $10.9 million for the bottleneck solution.

The annexation agreement's Exhibit C, which lists some capital projects and estimated costs in 2009 dollars, allocates $3.6 million to Steamboat 700 for a potential $14.5 million, unspecified solution to the bottleneck. The city is listed in Exhibit C as a funding source for that project.

But using Exhibit C to determine capital costs and responsibility is questionable at best.

Exhibit C, in its entirety, details financial plans for the five metropolitan districts that would be a part of the Steamboat 700 development. City public works engineer Laura Anderson said the lists of capital projects and costs in Exhibit C are presented as examples to illustrate the feasibility of metro district financing.

For phasing and cost allocation of capital projects, Anderson and other city staff point to Exhibit F, which is a complete list of projects that defines funding sources by percentage, because dollar amounts will change over time. The city's annexation attorney, Jerry Dahl, shares the view that Exhibit F is the controlling agreement for capital projects.

The annexation agreement also states that point.

"The Parties agree that the Capital Facilities Phasing Plan, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit F, shall control the timing and construction and/or dedication of capital facilities described therein," the agreement states. It also states that Exhibit F is "the mechanism for determining when and by whom each listed capital facility must be provided."

Dahl said Tuesday that "(Exhibit) F certainly controls the list of capital facilities that have to be built and who's responsible for them."

According to Exhibit F, Steamboat 700 would be required to pay 77 percent of the costs for all U.S. 40 improvements from 12th Street to Steamboat West Boulevard. The remaining 23 percent of funding for work on that corridor would come from the Colorado Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and other developments west of Steamboat.

If CDOT, the Federal Highway Administration or other developments are unable to pay their share of improvement costs to U.S. 40 or ancillary roads, Steamboat 700 must either front that share itself or halt development until it is available, according to the annexation agreement.

Routt County is not identified as a funding source in any of the capital projects in Exhibit F. In terms of transportation projects, the city is identified as a funding source in only three places: for 80 percent contributions to a total of four transit buses; and for an unspecified amount to create a Transit Master Plan.

The annexation agreement estimates a total cost of about $2 million for the buses, of which Steamboat 700 would pay about $400,000. The rest could be paid by an "anticipated grant from (the) Federal Transit Authority," the agreement states.

The city is obligated for no other financial cost related to transportation infrastructure in Exhibit F — but other funding sources for a bottleneck solution are listed as "unknown."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com