State has no plan to pay for a roundabout
Local officials learned Friday that the state has no intention of paying for a roundabout and transit center at the intersection of Highway 82 and Maroon Creek Road.
At least not for now.
The roundabout and transit center at the intersection and the addition of transit lanes from Maroon Creek Bridge to Maroon Creek Road are the first phase of the much-anticipated Entrance to Aspen project. The city of Aspen and Pitkin County agreed earlier this year to pay for the work themselves, anticipating that the state would eventually pony up for the project, as it did with a roundabout in West Vail.
County Commissioner Dorothea Farris learned Friday that the reimbursement is not in place. The funding needs to be set aside in advance in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) in order for the city and the county to be repaid. Currently, the Entrance to Aspen project is not in that plan.
Local officials are now faced with the prospect of paying for the project, expected to cost between $5 million and $7 million, with local tax dollars. They have no assurance they will get the money back from the state. Bids on the project will be opened Friday, said county Public Works Director Stan Berryman, and work is supposed to begin on May 15.
Berryman said local officials have several options for dealing with the situation. They can pay for it fully from local funds, lobby the state to change its mind, or convince another community to free up the funding by giving up one of its transportation projects. Or they can cancel the project and do nothing.
“Doing nothing is always an option,” Berryman admitted, although he added that it isn’t likely.
Ralph Trapani, Highway 82 project manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said that he thought everyone understood the state’s reluctance to pay for projects that haven’t been added to the STIP.
“I’m surprised that this is a surprise,” Trapani said.
In a Jan. 5 letter to elected officials in Pitkin County, Aspen and the town of Snowmass Village, Transportation Commission of Colorado Chairman Roger Cracraft said the commission was neither able to promise early funding for the project nor reimbursement of local money spent on it. The letter is a response to a joint resolution passed by the three local governments urging the state to expedite funding for the Entrance to Aspen project.
Cracraft wrote, “funding for construction of these projects is not identified in the current plan. Inclusion in the STIP will facilitate locally funded construction of the Maroon Creek Road/Highway 82 intersection. However, reimbursement of local funding cannot be approved at the present time.”
Upon learning of the situation, Aspen Mayor John Bennett suggested local officials attend the next Transportation Commission meeting on May 13.
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