Team seeks common ground on I-70 | AspenTimes.com

Team seeks common ground on I-70

Bob Berwyn
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

A new collaboration team focusing on Interstate 70 improvements will try to address lingering trust issues while developing a new alternative for highway improvements in the corridor between Golden and Glenwood Springs.

Ten members of the I-70 Mountain Corridor Coalition have been named to the new panel. Representatives include coalition chairman and Frisco Town Manager Michael Penny; Dennis Lunberry, mayor of Idaho Springs; Kevin O’Malley, Clear Creek County commissioner; Tresi Houpt, Garfield County commissioner; Beth Ganz, Vail Resorts, Inc.; Eric Turner, Summit County Chamber of Commerce member; Stan Zemler, Vail town manager; Cynthia Neely, Georgetown and historic preservation representative; Thad Noll, Summit Stage representative; and Harry Dale, Clear Creek County commissioner and Rocky Mountain Rail Authority representative.

The group will begin meeting in the next few months. The goal is to develop an alternative during the first quarter of 2008, Penny said.

The meetings will be open to the public and will include opportunities for public comment.

At issue are planned long-term I-70 improvements aimed at relieving congestion between the Front Range and mountain resorts, as well as vexing safety issues. A programmatic environmental impact study launched under then-Governor Bill Owens has been put on hold while the stakeholders look for a plan that could avoid what looked like an inevitable legal showdown over proposed highway widening.

“It’s not hidden that Clear Creek had trust issues with the Colorado Department of Transportation and the previous director,” Penny said.

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CDOT appeared to be set on adding new lanes along the corridor. Clear Creek communities saw that plan as a threat to the well-being of their citizens. Although unspoken, the threat of a lawsuit was always in the air. Any legal battle could have delayed implementation of I-70 projects by years and years.

The election of Gov. Bill Ritter and appointment of Russell George as CDOT director dramatically changed the process.

“They pressed pause,” Penny said. “We are going to try and sit down with folks in a small room and see where we are in agreement and where not. We’ll try and rebuild the trust that was broken in some of the stakeholders’ eyes. I don’t think we’re that far apart,” Penny said. “Then we can go after the big prize ” the money to make something happen.”

The 25-member collaboration team includes representatives of different interests in the 144-mile corridor, including local governments, highway users, transit, environmental, business and recreation, as well as state and federal agencies.

Working with independent facilitators from The Keystone Center, the team will meet regularly at various locations in the corridor. The meetings will be open to the public for observation, with brief opportunities for public comment. Meeting dates, times and locations will be publicized when they are scheduled.

For more information on the collaborative team, go to http://www.i70mtncorridor.com.

For information on the coalition, go to http://www.i70solutions.org.

In a separate process from the collaborative effort, I-70 stakeholders will meet during the next few months to discuss context sensitive solutions (CSS) to planning highway improvements. That basically means developing a plan to address congestion and safety while protecting the environment and community values at the same time. The design of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon is often held up as an example of successful context sensitive design.

The first meeting, open to the public, is set for Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Keystone Conference Center. More info is available at http://www.i70solutions.org

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