Garco balks at cost of bike path |

Garco balks at cost of bike path

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Backers of a South Canyon bike trail will lose a $1.25 million state grant and further scale back their initial project plans after a decision by Garfield County commissioners Monday.

Commissioners voted 2-1 against awarding a $3.03 million construction contract for a one-mile section of the trail, balking over yet another increase in cost.

The decision means the Lower Valley Trails Group, or LOVA, will forfeit a $1.25 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant that has a looming deadline to be used. Instead, LOVA will focus on building an initial 500 feet of trail in West Glenwood.

It would be an even briefer beginning to the group’s long-term plans of building a trail through South Canyon, and eventually west to the Mesa County line.

South Canyon has been the initial focus of the group’s efforts because cyclists now must pedal on Interstate 70 to get through it. But it’s also an expensive stretch of trail to build because the narrow, steep corridor already is occupied by the highway and Colorado River.

LOVA originally had hoped to build a trail from West Glenwood to the South Canyon I-70 exit for about $1.5 million, but by the time it went out to bid the cost estimate had risen to $3.9 million. LOVA then decided to focus on building an initial mile of trail from West Glenwood into South Canyon, at a hoped-for cost of about $2.7 million.

However, the project contractor, Kiewit Corp., indicated Friday that it is likely to cost more like $3 million.

That pushed the cost too high for Commissioner John Martin, who previously has backed funding for the trail. He said it would cost $600 per linear foot, three times more than what it costs to build a road.

“I think we need to go back and have a realistic approach,” he said.

Commissioner Larry McCown, who has opposed the trail project in the past, said LOVA should return to GOCO with the latest estimates and see if GOCO is willing to give a new, higher grant to support it.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt voiced disappointment that the county’s decision means LOVA will lose the grant and have to pursue a shorter trail.

“Once we start this trail there’s no guarantee that GOCO’s going to come back with the level of funding that they gave us for this trail,” she said.

She also is worried that construction costs will continue to skyrocket. LOVA Executive Director Larry Dragon said that would mean the group would have to obtain even larger local matching grants.

The county already had committed $733,000 to the project, and Glenwood Springs $550,000. Both entities had bumped up their commitments as estimates continued to rise.

However, Martin and McCown were unwilling to agree to the county giving $300,000 more to the trail. As the lead agency behind the project, it also would have been responsible for any unforeseen additional costs, and would have borne any legal liabilities associated with the trail, along with the expense of trail maintenance.

Despite Monday’s decision, LOVA board member Mike Sawyer told commissioners the group has appreciated the county’s past support for the project. He said the group will need to try to bring the Colorado Department of Transportation on as a funding partner, and do more private fundraising as well.

Dragon said the group now hopes to use available funding to build a difficult section of trail between the West Glenwood sewage treatment plant and Colorado River. It will require large walls but also be aesthetically pleasing because of its proximity to the river, he said, and he hopes building some trail can help generate support for extending the trail later.

County commissioners voiced informal support for LOVA moving forward with the shorter segment. Dragon said LOVA will need to run its plans by the city and other funding sources as well before proceeding.

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