Column: Highway 9 grassroots pledges to date at $1 million |

Column: Highway 9 grassroots pledges to date at $1 million

The initiative to improve and greatly enhance the safety of Highway 9 north of Kremmling reaches a major decision point next Tuesday, June 25, when the Grand County Commissioners decide what financial commitment they will make to the project.

When the commissioners made the decision to submit the pre-application, they met with the Citizens For A Safe Highway 9 committee to talk about a fundraising strategy. For this particular Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) program, local governments are required to provide 20 percent of the funding for the total cost of the project. The committee had secured a $4 million match contribution for the project from Paul Jones, owner of Blue Valley Ranch. Since that meeting late in April, the committee has been meeting with local entities and stakeholders in an effort to secure letters of support and financial pledges.

The response has been nothing short of heart-warming. An additional $1 million has been pledged to the project to this date and the money continues to come through the door. Public entities have stepped to the plate with decisions that were difficult. At this point, the majority of the money has been pledged by private sources. The show of support has been incredible. Certainly, the committee has worked hard to publicize the effort through mailings, posters and personal contacts. However, many of the letters of support and pledges were not solicited. They are from people who believe in the project. They are from people who have driven that stretch of road and recognize the perilous conditions. They are from people who believe these improvements will save lives and will bring a positive economic impact to this region of the state.

Earlier this month, Grand County was invited to submit a final application. The next step will be to provide the funding plan on July 1. That plan needs to outline the plan for providing the 20 percent match for the project. If the funding is secured, the project will be placed into the next round of competition, with the final decision to be made by the Colorado Highway Commission in September of this year. Only the projects that have secured that 20 percent match will be considered.

Grand County will be competing against projects for which that match has already been pledged. In some of those instances, county commissioners have made the decision that the money will be coming from county funds. This matching program by CDOT is a new program and is only scheduled to last for the next few years. If this type of funding formula becomes the norm, public entities will be faced with playing the highway improvement game under a new paradigm, or set of guidelines. It will be interesting to see where that road leads. These partnerships of public entities and private funding may be the wave of the future.

The Highway 9 project has been a rewarding experience. It has been met with nearly unanimous support and there have been some astounding pledges made from people who want to see that fruit will be borne from the labor of so many hands. Grand County has provided leadership in putting this initiative in motion. Many have stepped forward to join in that partnership. In fact, that grassroots support is a distinguishing characteristic of this project. It is one of the key factors that sets the Highway 9 project apart as a unique and attractive highway construction project in Colorado.

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