Silverthorne backs 110 with hope for Exit 205

Eli Pace
Summit Daily
After studying the problem, the Colorado Department of Transportation has determined a diverging diamond, diagramed here, would help alleviate the traffic problems Silverthorne is seeing at Exit 205, the interchange of Highway 9 and Interstate 70.
Special to the Daily / Colorado Department of Transportation

Silverthorne rarely weighs in on state ballot issues, town manager Ryan Hyland said, but when that happens, it’s usually because elected leadership anticipates “direct and significant” effects on the town.

With that, Silverthorne Town Council has decided to tackle two November ballot measures — opposing Amendment 74 and supporting Proposition 110 — both of which could have wide-ranging implications, not just for Silverthorne, but across the state. Obviously, Silverthorne’s officials are far more concerned with what the two proposals could do locally, Hyland said.

Amendment 74 pertains to protecting the value of private property, but it is widely seen as the gas and oil industry’s response to another ballot measure, Proposition 112, that would require more stringent setbacks on gas and oil developments. Its language might seem innocuous, Hyland said, but Amendment 74 could jeopardize a host of government operations — everything from promoting public health and safety to land-use regulations — by opening the town up to a wave of new lawsuits any time it takes action that affects private property values.

Citing many of the same concerns Silverthorne has, Breckenridge came out against Amendment 74 in September, joining a long list of Colorado municipalities trying to defeat Amendment 74.

More interesting is Silverthorne’s support for Proposition 110, a ballot measure called “Let’s Go Colorado.” If passed, it would generate $767 million annually by raising Colorado’s sales tax 0.62 percent — or 62 cents on every $100 spent — over 20 years while also allowing the state to borrow up to $6 billion up front for transportation projects.

Additionally, the measure would steer 40 percent of the sales tax revenue to local governments and 15 percent to multimodal transportation projects, such as bike lanes and walking paths.

Transportation has long been a sore spot in Silverthorne with exit 205 seeing worsening traffic jams, especially at peak drive time over the summer months, as motorists headed south on Highway 9 pile up trying to get onto Interstate 70 East.

The gridlock has stalled some of the town’s latest efforts to remake downtown Silverthorne into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly corridor. This summer, officials stalled a town-produced transportation plan for Highway 9 downtown, mostly after locals voiced concerns over the high volume of traffic they’re already seeing on the route.

After much study, CDOT has prescribed a fix for the exit 205 interchange. It’s called “a diverging diamond,” and should help alleviate the pinch, according to local officials. When CDOT might start the work, however, is anyone’s guess.

“That is something that has been on the planning list for CDOT, I think, long before I started here 12 years ago,” Hyland said. “More recently in 2011-12, CDOT spent a great amount of time and funds to come up with an actual plan that could be implemented for that.”

But Hyland worries the exit 205 plan “will likely sit on the shelf for many, many more years” until the state can find the money to pay for it. He believes Prop 110 could be that source.

Even if voters approve the measure, no one is guaranteeing the money would find its way to exit 205. Without it, however, local officials fear the work won’t ever get done.

“We’re on CDOT’s list, which is a wonderful thing,” Councilwoman JoAnne Nadalin said at last week’s council meeting before asking Hyland if he’s confident that something will happen someday.

“I am,” he replied. However, if Prop 110 doesn’t pass, Hyland said he’s “pretty certain we won’t see this in some of our lifetimes.”

Reasons to support Prop 110 don’t stop at exit 205, though, as the ballot measure would also direct some of the new revenue to a number of local projects.

“That’s the key,” Silverthorne Councilman Kevin McDonald said. “Exit 205 is a binary event — either it happens or it doesn’t — and we can’t guarantee that it will. But 40 percent of (the new sales tax) would go to county and municipal projects, and those are reliable sources of funding … so there are reasons to support (Prop 110) past exit 205.”

That’s likely one reason Frisco has also come out in support of Prop 110. According to CDOT, the local funding could amount to almost $250,000 for Silverthorne alone the first year and $6.9 million over 20 years. Dillon, Breckenridge, Frisco and Summit County also stand to see nice boosts if voters pass Prop 110.

A dueling ballot measure, known as “Fix Our Damn Roads,” seeks to increase transportation funding by requiring $2 billion more from the state’s general fund.

Prop 109 does not identify any sources for new revenue, and opponents have equated it to an unfunded mandate or a veiled budget cut on other government services. In turn, proponents have countered that Prop 109 would address transportation needs without raising taxes.


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