Public Utilities Commission approves Fraser underpass |

Public Utilities Commission approves Fraser underpass

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has approved the amended application for a new grade-separated railroad crossing in Fraser.

The approval was the final hurdle before construction on the project could begin.

“We’re not going to do anything right now as winter moves in,” said Jack Bestall, speaking on behalf of the West Mountain Metropolitan District, one of the applicants. “Our target is to start in 2015, and I think that we’re on track. We have a signed construction and maintenance agreement.”

The original application sought the closing of the at-grade railroad crossing on Kings Crossing Road in Winter Park as well as allocation of some of the project’s costs to the Town of Winter Park, though those stipulations were removed.

The Town of Fraser, Union Pacific Railroad and the West Mountain Metropolitan District, a quasi-governmental entity representing Cornerstone Holdings LLC, finalized a construction and management agreement in October.

That agreement dictates that UPRR will pursue the closure of the crossing at Kings Crossing Road following the completion of the new underpass.

The idea for a new underpass in Fraser, located on the as-of-yet unconstructed Grand Park Drive, first appeared in the 2004 Leland Creek Annexation Agreement between Winter Park and Cornerstone Winter Park Holdings LLC, which owns the Grand Park development.

The agreement stated that Winter Park would “cooperate to accomplish the construction of the crossing,” close the current crossing on Kings Crossing Road, and fund $1.75 million, or 11 percent of the original construction costs.

UPRR has agreed to fund 19 percent of the project, or $2.4 million, and Cornerstone will fund 70 percent, or $7.06 million.

A 2007 amendment to the agreement, signed by former Winter Park Mayor Harold “Nick” Teverbaugh, stipulated additional funds from Winter Park for the project as well as deadlines for a construction contract.

However, Winter Park has not honored the agreement.

In a letter from Cornerstone Holdings LLC to Winter Park Town Manager Drew Nelson, dated Aug. 13, Cornerstone President Clark Lipscomb cites an earlier letter from Nelson enumerating the reasons why Winter Park would not honor the agreement.

Among those reasons are that the underpass is not planned in the original location as per the annexation agreement, and that Cornerstone is not listed on the PUC application.

Lipscomb countered that UPRR’s current design is located within the project area in the annexation agreement, and that there is no requirement in the annexation agreement that Cornerstone be an applicant.

The annexation agreement has already been litigated once. In the judgment, District Court Judge Mary Hoak provided Cornerstone with guidelines for seeking funding from Winter Park for 2015.

“If no timely written request is made, Plaintiff shall have no obligation to consider funding the Road Extension or the Underpass for the corresponding fiscal year,” the judgment states.

Bestall said Cornerstone has applied for the funding. Winter Park did not set aside funding for the project during its 2015 budget process.

The judgment also upholds the annexation agreement and the subsequent amendment.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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