Safety, lack of options, congestion rise to the top of Northwest Colorado’s transportation worries
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Road conditions and safety, a lack of travel options and growth and congestion rose to the highest priorities that will be used to guide transportation projects in Northwest Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is in the midst of developing its statewide transportation plan, which determines how and what projects will be funded first. This plan is required to be completed every four years. CDOT’s most recent statewide plan was created in 2015.
Earlier this week, CDOT released a mid-point report, which outlines priorities for transportation projects in each region of Colorado and the state as a whole. Though the order of priority was different across the state, in every area, residents and transit advisory groups said the biggest issues in the state were road conditions and safety, growth and lack of travel options.
In Northwest Colorado, those priorities translate into a desire for more shoulders, pull-outs and passing lanes on U.S. Highway 40 and more truck parking and pullouts on Colorado Highway 14. Residents also asked for mitigation of congestion on U.S. 40 between Craig and Steamboat Springs.
Community members also asked for transit services to serve seniors and rural areas, particularly service to Grand Junction.
These priorities are being used by the state and CDOT’s local transportation advisory boards to create a list of projects. Data was collected from the planning regions, community meetings, pop-up events and phone-in town halls.
Heather Sloop is the chair of the Northwest Colorado Transportation Region Planning Commission, which includes Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties, and a member of the Statewide Transportation Advisory Committee. Sloop explained that all of this data collected by CDOT was compared to existing local priorities to be sure that input from the community is reflected in local project priorities. That comparison didn’t reveal any surprises, she said.
“Realistically speaking, it’s exactly the same as our priority planning list,” Sloop said.
Unlike previous transportation plans, Sloop said this one will address transportation corridors in place of specific mile markers on highways. She added that Colorado 13 has been a high priority from south of Meeker to the Wyoming border, but work to reconstruct the road, widen lanes and replace culverts is nearly complete. Now, Sloop said the region will likely turn its attention to projects on U.S. 40 on either side of Steamboat, from Rabbit Ears to Kremmling and Craig to Steamboat.
This project list will be finalized in late winter and early spring 2020, said Bob Wilson, a CDOT spokesperson. A draft plan will be released for public review in early 2020.
“We’re just at the midway point, so there’ll be more information to come,” Wilson said.
Sloop also sits on the Steamboat Springs City Council. She said that when projects appear as high priorities for both state and local governments, these agencies can better seek funding to complete them. Still though, Sloop said that funding is scarce.
“It’s great to have lists, but the lists do not mean that there’s funding,” she said. “We as a state, as a whole, need to be cognizant of the fact that statewide funding for transportation is not rising, and is, in essence, going down from many different factors. These lists are great for planning for the future, but there are no guarantees that any or all of these projects will be funded unless and until we figure out our funding mechanism for transportation.”
More information about the plan is available at YourTransportationPlan.com.
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