No stimulus money aimed at Pitkin County, for now |

No stimulus money aimed at Pitkin County, for now

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Roads and highways in the Aspen area probably will not be getting much help from President Barack Obama’s recently passed federal stimulus package, an official said this week.

That’s because this area recently got funding for the new Maroon Creek Bridge on Highway 82, and Pitkin County is “stepping back” from making any requests for additional money, at least in the first round of requests, according to county Public Works Director Brian Pettet.

Speaking to the county commissioners at a work session Tuesday, Pettet said the stimulus package ” $787 billion authorized by Congress and signed by the president in February to stimulate the national economy ” is being divided among a host of state projects that have been delayed for lack of money in recent years.

“It really just brings it up to 2007 funding levels,” Pettet said of the money being directed at Colorado road and bridge projects, much of which will go through the Colorado Department of Transportation’s planning process.

Colorado is getting about $403 million for road and bridge projects ” about $280 million will go to CDOT and the rest to local planning agencies, the Denver Business Journal’s online edition reported March 9.

CDOT’s fiscal 2009 budget was slashed by about $500 million in federal funds, the article says.

Pettet said Pitkin County, in light of the recent completion of the Maroon Creek Bridge project, is out of the running for the CDOT portion of the stimulus package funding. Funding for the bridge project appeared to be a little short at one point in the planning and engineering process, and other areas in the CDOT Region 3 planning district agreed to release some of the money destined for projects in their own neighborhoods to enable completion of the Maroon Creek Bridge.

In return, Pettet said, “we recognized that we’d take a back seat if any more money came available,” such as the stimulus package.

He said Eagle and Garfield counties are expected to get some of the stimulus money.

As for Pitkin County, he explained, “Instead of pave and save, we’re just sort of patching and planning these days.”

That planning includes revamping Aspen Business Center roads, which are part of the county’s jurisdiction.

The county is also “seeing huge amounts of additional impacts [from rising traffic volumes] on McLain Flats Road,” as commuters seek a way around the logjam at the entrance to Aspen.

The county’s strategic plan calls for the impacts to McLain Flats Road to be assessed this summer, and Pettet said a “chip-seal” coating of the road surface is planned to slow down the deterioration.

“I think we made a strategic error last year,” said County Commissioner Jack Hatfield, referring to the board’s decision to cut $1.5 million from the county’s annual road and bridge fund, and divert the money to other operational needs.

County officials had hoped that local voters would go along with a proposed property tax to generate more than $5 million per year for roads, but voters rejected the idea in November. That left the county with $400,000 in annual maintenance funds and no money for capital improvements and safety projects.

One ray of hope, Pettet said, is that there may be money left for local projects once the CDOT planning process is completed and the state knows exactly how it will be using the stimulus package funding.

So county officials have stepped up planning for improvements to the ABC roads, as well as safety improvements to the intersection of Upper River Road, McLain Flats Road and Smith Hill Way.

Those projects, he said, could be “shovel ready” in time to put in requests for any remaining funds.

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