Routt County loses out on $15.5M road grant | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County loses out on $15.5M road grant

Routt won’t receive stimulus funds; pursuit of rights of way continues

— County commissioners learned late last week that Routt County will not receive the $15.5 million federal stimulus grant they were counting on to rebuild five miles of Routt County Road 14 on the way to Stagecoach. But by Monday morning, they had returned to the details of purchasing rights of way on private land adjacent to the road about 15 miles south of Steamboat Springs.

"It was disappointing, of course," Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said. "Our staff worked very hard on this from June through September. It was the most competitive federal grant in memory."

The commissioners voted, 2-1, in August 2009 to budget $1.3 million for acquiring rights of way needed to make the reconstruction and widening of the troublesome stretch of C.R. 14 shovel ready in time to leverage the stimulus dollars.

The road carries all kinds of vehicular traffic, Mitsch Bush said, from daily commuters going to and from work in Steamboat, to people hauling boats and campers to Stagecoach State Park, all of it averaging 2,300 daily trips.

Commissioner Doug Mon­ger was skeptical of Routt County's chances of getting the grant last summer and voted against spending the money for the rights of way, but now that $300,000 has been invested, he's on board.

"We moved forward, so we're going to continue to move forward," Monger said. "We need to complete this part of the process so that we have the rights of way in hand. Short of restoring employees' salaries, it's probably one of our highest priorities."

County Attor­ney John Merrill said Monday that the land acquisition agent retained by the county, Universal Field Services, has obtained 20 of the 45 purchase contracts needed to pick up pieces of private land for the highway realignment and widening. Not all of the impacted property owners are happy about the process, Merrill acknowledged.

The parcels range from 0.07 to 7.49 acres. The prices paid for five parcels during contract review by the commissioners Monday ranged from $12,000 to $35,000.

A local surveying firm also is working on the project.

The five-mile stretch of C.R. 14 has narrow lanes of traffic, blind corners and uneven pavement that is expensive to maintain. Road and Bridge Supervisor Paul Draper said when rebuilt to county standards, the road would have 12-foot traffic lanes and 3-foot shoulders with gravel on the sides of the shoulders.

One of the biggest changes would be the elimination of a pair of 90-degree corners less than a mile from the intersection with Colorado Highway 131. Realigning those corners would require the largest single acquisition of a right of way, almost 7.5 acres from the Verda M. Taylor Fund on behalf of the Archie Dinius family.

That contract has not yet been acquired.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com