Garfield County hesitant to commit to South Bridge funding for Glenwood Springs
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Two of the three Garfield County commissioners say they might not be willing to join forces with the city of Glenwood Springs to obtain funding for construction of the South Bridge project, at least not now.
The Colorado Department of Transportation recently informed city officials that the South Bridge project is among four city projects selected to apply for funding through the state’s new Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships program.
Other projects still in the mix, and which Glenwood Springs City Council will prioritize at its regular Thursday meeting, are a proposed grade-separated bike path crossing at 27th Street and South Glen/Highway 82, improvements along Highway 6 and 24 in West Glenwood and improvements to the 12th Street underpass.
The application deadline for the RAMP funds is July 1.
To bolster the funding match for the estimated $39 million South Bridge project, Glenwood Springs is seeking a letter of support from the county, plus a 10 percent financial commitment, or $3.9 million.
If successful, the project could receive as much as $30 million in state funds to complete the connection from South Midland Avenue and Airport Road to a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River and signalized intersection at State Highway 82.
“South Bridge started as a safety project, but now it is viewed as a critical infrastructure project for the city, as well,” Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch said at the commissioners meeting Monday.
A southern connection from the Glenwood Park area and the Four Mile corridor to Highway 82 first was proposed following the Coal Seam Fire in 2002 as a secondary evacuation route in the event of future wildfires.
Through the efforts of Scott McInnis, then representing the 3rd Congressional District, the project received a $4.5 million federal earmark for planning and eventual construction. Most of that money went toward the preparation of a necessary environmental assessment.
The project would include a roundabout at the intersection of Midland Avenue, Four Mile Road and Airport Road as well as a major upgrade of Airport Road.
A preferred route calls for extending the road beneath the south end of the city airport runway to a new bridge and connection to Highway 82 just south of the Holy Cross Energy headquarters.
“It is an expensive project, but we believe it is a critical project to bring to the county,” Partch said, adding the project likely would be complete in phases over several years.
County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who represented Sunlight Mountain Resort on the original committee that looked at the South Bridge route, said it’s an opportunity the county shouldn’t pass up.
“This is a unique enough project that I’m willing to look at going into our reserves to get this done if it were to be funded (by the state),” Jankovsky said. “Our support of this would give it a much higher chance of being approved.”
But, with a total of nine projects throughout Garfield County in New Castle, Rifle and Carbondale potentially vying for RAMP funds, Commissioner Mike Samson, of Rifle, said he wasn’t ready to commit to the South Bridge project.
“I need to know what we anticipate from these other municipalities (in the way of matching-fund requests),” Samson said. “We have tried to be fair in helping all of the municipalities when it comes to these funds.”
Moreover, with a projected $15 million decline in property tax revenues for the county in 2014, the county is looking to rein in spending on capital projects in general, Samson said.
“I just don’t know how far that money can stretch, and I don’t want to put Garfield County in a bad position,” he said.
Commissioners Chairman John Martin said he also would like to see a “master plan” of all transportation-related projects the county is considering funding over the next couple of years. That includes the county’s own road and bridge projects, he said.
The commissioners scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. Monday to discuss the city’s proposal further.
Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney urged the commissioners to consider the value of pooling city, county and state funding to begin work on the South Bridge project.
“This is an opportunity to help us address some serious transportation issues,” McKinney said. “I would appeal to your businessman’s sense and ask you to consider the bang for the buck this project could bring to city residents and county residents.”
“I think we need to support Glenwood Springs in this,” he said. “It’s just a good way to try to leverage funds.”
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