Gravel pit approval triggers talk about Garfield County’s roadways | AspenTimes.com

Gravel pit approval triggers talk about Garfield County’s roadways

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County’s approval this week of a gravel pit west of Parachute is likely to bring with it a change in the way the government deals with development impacts to the county roads system.

The county commissioners on Monday approved the RTZ Gravel Pit, a 130-acre operation on land that is part of a 1,200-acre property known as Five Mile Ranch, near the intersection of County Road 300 and U.S. Highway 6, southwest of Parachute.

The planned pit is surrounded by other industrial uses, including the Strong PUD, the Una Gravel Pit and the Orchard Compressor Station. Other industrial operations are located to the north of the Union Pacific Railroad, which cuts through the area next to the Colorado River.

According to the applicants, the Specialty Restaurant Corp./Stockton Restaurant Corp., the goal is to extract 150,000 tons of sand and gravel per year from the pit for a decade or so, after which the plan is to create two ponds and leave the area suitable for residential development.

One issue that prompted a discussion of the shape of county roads in the area was the fact that the RTZ operation is expected to generate 62 trips per day on CR300 – 52 truck trips and six employee vehicle trips.

The road already experiences high truck traffic volumes and is deteriorating, according to county planners, with crumbling shoulders and poor drainage.

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The traffic increase is calculated to be greater than 20 percent, according to the proposal, which means that a State Highway Access Permit [SHAP] must be obtained from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Normally, the arrangement for that permit has been left up to the developer, along with the added responsibility of paying for the road improvements.

In the case of CR 300, according to commissioner John Martin, that responsibility had been attached to a previously approved industrial park near the RTZ location, owned by George Strong.

But the commissioners, in discussions with RTZ representatives, Strong and CDOT official Dan Roussin, agreed on the need for a new method for addressing road improvements, and the commissioners directed staff members to draw up a proposal to transfer to the county the responsibility for obtaining the SHAP and working out a formula for paying for improvements..

“We’ve been passing the buck for 25 years,” said commissioner Martin about the problems associated with the CR300 intersection and the question of road improvements in general. “We need to be at the table, so we know what’s going to be done. We need to be calling the shots.”

County planner Fred Jarman recently wrote a memo to the BOCC about the increasing deterioration of certain heavily used intersections around the county, as well as the need to figure out a way to pay for intersection improvements without resorting to the use of the county’s own funds. He said using county funds to fix these intersections might be seen by the electorate as “double taxing the citizens” and “subsidizing growth.”

The BOCC is expected to take the question up in a broader sense, pertaining to county roads in general and not just involving one intersection, at future meetings.

Meanwhile, the developers of the RTZ gravel pit are planning to meet with county officials and others connected to the CR 300 intersection to talk about making the improvements.

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