Our View: The drive for traffic funding | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: The drive for traffic funding

Steamboat Springs — The biggest hurdle to widening and improving U.S. Highway 40 from 13th Street west to Steamboat II isn't how to do it or whether to do it – it's how to fund it. For that reason, city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials as well as our state legislators should play an active role in lobbying for funds to offset the cost of such a significant capital project. — The biggest hurdle to widening and improving U.S. Highway 40 from 13th Street west to Steamboat II isn't how to do it or whether to do it – it's how to fund it. For that reason, city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials as well as our state legislators should play an active role in lobbying for funds to offset the cost of such a significant capital project.

— The biggest hurdle to widening and improving U.S. Highway 40 from 13th Street west to Steamboat II isn’t how to do it or whether to do it – it’s how to fund it. For that reason, city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County officials as well as our state legislators should play an active role in lobbying for funds to offset the cost of such a significant capital project.

Widening U.S. 40 west of downtown Steamboat is critical to increasing the capacity of Routt County’s major (and in some cases, only) east-west thoroughfare. That need already is apparent by the steady stream of headlights flowing into Steamboat from the west each weekday morning, and repeating itself in the opposite direction each evening. The expansion to U.S. 40 will become a must when construction on the massive Steamboat 700 development commences, possibly as soon as 2010.

Although the need to widen U.S. 40 east of downtown Steamboat has been discussed for more than a decade, little has been produced as far as specific recommendations. That is changing.

On Thursday, consultants from Stolfus & Associates presented a draft of their West Steamboat Springs U.S. 40 Access Plan. The plan details techniques for improving travel on U.S. 40, including removing some existing access points and eliminating turning vehicles from through-traffic lanes. An accompanying capacity analysis will examine the potential widening of U.S. 40 from two lanes to four lanes from 13th Street west to the Steamboat II subdivision outside of city limits.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, which has the final say on improvements to U.S. 40, is partnering with the city on the studies. CDOT has contributed $50,000 for the plans.

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That’s good news, as City Engineer Janet Hruby pointed out, because having such plans in place could help U.S. 40 improvements get prioritization – and funding – from CDOT. But those hopes must be tempered with the reality that transportation funding from the state is anything but guaranteed. Gov. Bill Ritter’s Blue Ribbon Transportation Panel released a report Wednesday that identified transportation funding as a “quiet crisis.”

Steamboat Springs City Council members and Routt County commissioners should take a lead role in lobbying for funding and prioritization of U.S. 40 improvements. The city also could have a wild card in George Krawzoff, the city’s outgoing transportation director who is a recent appointee to the Colorado Transportation Commission.

Our state legislators can be even more influential in pushing U.S. 40 improvements at the state level. We hope to see candidates for state Senate District 8 and state House District 57 make the future project a part of their campaign.

Motor vehicle traffic along U.S. Highway 40 will continue to increase as Craig and Hayden continue to grow and future developments such as Steamboat 700 come online. There’s a limited pot of money to fund transportation projects statewide, and the importance of U.S. 40 improvements to traffic flow into and out of Steamboat Springs demands the efforts of our elected officials.