Bumgarners donate $100K to Highway 9 project
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — A round of applause followed the announcement of Jennifer and Grand County Commissioner Gary Bumgarner’s contribution of $100,000 to the Citizens for a Safe Highway 9 Committee to help with the committee’s progress toward safety improvements on the highway.
“We were remembering times when we had near misses on the road,” said Jennifer Bumgarner, who announced the donation during the May 14 meeting of the Board of Grand County Commissioners.
“Our daughter two years ago was getting married and we had gone to Denver to get a (few) supplies, and on our way back we were hit by a deer,” she said. “If I had swerved that day I would have gone head-on into a semi truck, and we wouldn’t be here today making this pledge,” she said.
“We want to make sure this gets done for everybody else, for future generations, so that everybody can have safe travels,” she said.
Commissioner Gary Bumgarner recused himself from the board in order to make the contribution to the project, saying, “Accidents happen, whether fixing this road will prevent any of those — that is why we are giving the money because I think this is our one-time opportunity to do it,” he said.
Bumgarner thanked the committee for their hard work as well as the commissioners for issuing a memorandum of understanding in support of the project. “We will see where it leads, but it’s a lot further than it was three years ago and that’s the main thing,” he said.
Besides the Bumgarner’s donation, the committee also received a $4 million matching grant and a $945,000 kick-start donation from the owner of Blue Valley Ranch near Kremmling in April. The committee has also received a $10,000 donation from the Blue Valley Sportsman Club, a $5,000 donation from the West Grand School District, and $1,500 from George Fosha.
“This obviously is a great kickstart,” said Chair of the Grand County Commissioners James Newberry, to Highway 9 committee members. “You still have a lot of work ahead of you but we appreciate the effort that you’re doing here and your commitment to the project.”
The committee will approach Summit County commissioners in the near future to ask for their support of the project. If the project were completed, 1.5 miles of the improvements on Highway 9 would take place in Summit County.
“They are a player in this and not just a neighboring county,” said Perry Handyside, manager of Blue Valley Ranch, located off of Highway 9.
The Highway 9 Safety Project would include enhancements to help prevent accidents from wildlife crossings from mile marker 126 to mile marker 137. This stretch of highway is located between Green Mountain Reservoir and the Colorado River crossing.
The project would include five wildlife underpasses and two overpasses, the first of their kind in Colorado, as well as 8-foot fencing along the rights of way to push wildlife toward the crossings.
The project would also entail widening of the highway to meet state standards and vertical and horizontal alignments to meet the 65 mph design speed. Eight-foot shoulders would also be constructed along the highway, which would be large enough to accommodate a bike lane, and side slopes of the highway would be flattened to allow for a vehicle recovery area.
The project is expected to be submitted to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program, which seeks to expedite important road improvement projects in the state. To qualify under RAMP, local governments must raise 20 percent of the total cost of a venture and submit an application that explains why a project should be put on a fasttrack for completion.
The total cost of the Highway 9 project is estimated by CDOT to be $46 million, which means the local match for the improvements would be about $9 million. With Blue Valley Ranch’s existing $945,000 donation and the $4 million matching grant, as well as the Bumgarner’s and other donations, about $4.2 million is still needed to meet that goal.
A pre-application for the RAMP program was due to CDOT by May 1, which Grand County submitted. On July 1, the full application for the project will be due to CDOT.
The Grand County Board of Commissioners has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Grand Foundation to hold all pledged funds in escrow until the project is approved and fully funded by CDOT, which is expected to occur before year-end 2013.
Citizens for a Safe Highway 9 Committee, headed by lifetime Grand County resident Mike Ritschard and formed by area residents, are assisting Grand County commissioners in raising the necessary funding to make up the local government’s share of the costs.
“We all know how dangerous it is to drive Highway 9,” Ritschard said in a press release dated April 22. “Too many of us have lost loved ones or seen them injured in accidents involving wildlife on that highway. Highway 9 deserves RAMP consideration.”
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334
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