State planning officials using new means to study transportation goals
Aspen Times Staff Writer
As they figure out how to manage with a shrinking pot of money, transportation planners around the state are using new methods to decide which projects to fund over the next five years.
Minority communities that have in the past been left out of the decision-making loop, and that have often taken the brunt of the displacement costs that inevitably occur when a highway is rerouted or a bypass built, will be consulted before the next round of funding is allocated.
“When they built a bypass in the 1970s, they’d look for cheap land in ghettos. This is a way for poorer neighborhoods to have a voice,” said Brian Pettet, Pitkin County’s director of public works.
Local planners are also using a process, mandated by the Colorado Department of Transportation, called “corridor visioning” that’s meant to help the state focus spending on strategic corridors – roadways, intersections, trails, airports and transit systems.
In the Intermountain Transportation Planning Region, which includes Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield, Summit and Lake counties, planners are looking at the I-70 corridor from the Eisenhower Tunnel to Eagle, the I-70/Highway 82 corridor between Rifle and Aspen, and the I-70 corridor between Rifle and Vail as possible strategic corridors, Pettet said.
Overlaps are both inevitable and expected. The I-70 corridor between the Eisenhower Tunnel and Eagle, for instance, is just the second half of a strategic corridor that stretches all the way down the Front Range to Denver International Airport. Some development plans for that corridor under consideration include a monorail, a light rail transportation system, an elevated roadway to make room for additional lanes and dedicated bus lanes.
At the end of the line is Eagle County Airport, which Pettet and others reckon will take a much more prominent role for all the resorts in central Colorado, including Aspen.
In Garfield County, officials are working out a list of projects in order of importance. Pettet expects that a new Highway 82 bypass through Glenwood Springs will top that list, followed by a new bridge across the Roaring Fork River for Highway 133 through Carbondale.
In Pitkin County, the top priority at this early stage of the process is the bridge over Maroon Creek, Pettet said. It is the oldest bridge in the state highway system and one of the most heavily used in rural Colorado. CDOT engineers inspect the span over Maroon Creek annually, as opposed to the standard practice of every other year, to make sure it is structurally sound.
“From both a constraint and safety standpoint, it needs to be fixed,” Pettet said.
Once the Intermountain planning region has its priorities set, it will pass them on to the Colorado Transportation Commission, the appointed body that oversees CDOT’s budget and operations. The commission is expected to decide in 2005 which projects will be funded and which won’t in coming years.
“Even though money isn’t going to be available until the end of the decade, we need to have our spending plan in place,” Pettet said.
Public open houses on the corridor visioning process are scheduled to begin next month. People interested in getting involved should contact the county public works department at 920-5390.
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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