Garfield County eyes millions for intersection upgrades
July 23, 2009
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Garfield County commissioners will be using some of their upcoming week off from regular Monday meetings to talk about how to accomplish millions of dollars worth of needed improvements to intersections of county roads and state highways.
The issue has come up more than once recently, both in the form of a May 20 memo from planning director Fred Jarman, and a discussion on July 22 about a specific intersection near Parachute where commercial traffic is believed to be causing a county road to deteriorate rapidly.
The county commissioners were planning to continue the roads discussion later on July 22, but postponed it until a special July 28 work session, according to Jarman. There is no regular commissioner meeting currently scheduled for July 27.
Jarman’s May 20 memo to commissioners described the county’s rural roads as “a ‘farm-to-market’ road system whose carrying capacity has been compromised due to an increase in general growth and energy exploration and production activity.”
In reviewing recent land-use proposals, Jarman continued, he determined that nearby intersections, where county roads meet state highways, were operating “at low or failing levels of service” and in need of significant work.
He identified a list of roads that fell into this classification, including the road that was discussed on July 22 – County Road 300 where it intersects with Colorado Highway 6, just west of Parachute and Battlement Mesa in the western end of the county.
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Because of vastly increased traffic, mostly from commercial and industrial users, the road is in need of up to $2 million in improvements, according to one estimate.
At this point, the county has ruled that two recently approved nearby commercial developments – the Strong PUD (a “planned unit development” for an industrial storage and work yard) and the RTZ gravel pit – are responsible for getting the necessary state permits and fixing the intersection so it can handle the added traffic.
But Jarman’s memo cited more than a dozen other intersections that may need similar amounts of work, which could bring the potential total cost to $20 million or perhaps more.
Speaking to Glenwood’s newspaper, the Post Independent, this week, Jarman pointed out that “it is not fair and equitable” to expect developers with new projects to pay for deterioration that came about before the new project was even conceived.
But it also is not reasonable, Jarman said, to expect the county’s taxpayers to shoulder the burden of paying for impacts caused by recent growth.
At present, the county relies on a 12-year old capital improvements plan that did not anticipate the level of commercial, industrial and residential growth recently experienced by Garfield County, stated Jarman’s memo.
More recent studies have recommended significantly increased impact fees to cover the county’s rising costs and responsibilities, according to the memo, but none have been adopted.
Jarman has advised that the county hire a consultant to review the existing impact fee structures, update the capital improvements plan and recommend a way for the county to reshape its policies in a way that is “fair and equitable and legally defensible” and preserves the county’s prevailing ethic that development should “pay its own way.”
“This is really complicated,” Jarman said in a telephone interview on July 22, worrying that commissioners may find it difficult to come up with a new framework of policies at the July 28 work session.