Dillon Dam Road alternatives draw flack
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
FRISCO, Colorado ” County and town officials on Thursday voiced numerous concerns with potential Dam Road realignments drafted by Denver Water engineers, citing project costs and impacts on local traffic as major issues.
Denver Water officials have been considering an alternate route for the road since January, and the utility has a $52,180 contract with HDR Engineering to study various realignment options and estimate the cost of construction.
The engineering firm generated more than 15 alternative routes and speculates the project could cost anywhere from $18 million to $49 million.
“Right now, all of these ideas are just lines on a piece of paper,” said Denver Water director of engineering Bob Mahoney. “Now it is important for us to get feedback from all the stakeholders to see if something like this is even possible.”
Denver Water has proposed a new road to divert traffic away from the route across the Dillon Dam, which was closed for three weeks in July after the utility cited unspecified security concerns.
Since 9/11, officials nationwide have expressed growing worries about public-access roads across dams.
Denver Water engineers highlighted three potential alternatives that would branch off the existing Dam Road in Frisco and parallel Interstate 70, ending at Wildernest or Stephen’s Way or Anemone Trail in Silverthorne.
“From a town perspective, I’m not sure how comfortable we are in commenting on plans we were not involved with until this meeting,” Town of Silverthorne assistant manager Ryan Hyland said. “We did agree to look at these ideas, but we’re not obligated to go forward with anything.”
Denver Water representatives admitted the projected budget for the project is far beyond anything their organization could accommodate, and they suggested that a federal Department of Homeland Security grant could provide some assistance.
Colorado Department of Transportation officials said they might be able to provide some funding for the project, should the new route share the right-of-way with the interstate.
Representatives from Dillon and Silverthorne agreed that many of the proposed alternative routes would place considerable strain on their I-70 interchange, an intersection that is frequently noted as one of the busiest in the state.
“If we brought all the Dam Road traffic into Silverthorne, it would be an absolute nightmare,” Silverthorne town engineer Bill Linfield said. “One alternative we would like to see would be keeping the road on top of the dam and making changes to account for Denver Water’s security concerns.”
County entities expressed a strong desire to keep traffic on the Dam Road, and urged Denver Water engineers to research routes as close to the existing byway as possible.
One idea proposed by county representatives was to build a bridge over the existing Dam Road, an alternative that would have less of an impact on the surrounding towns.
“Another problem with a potential new road is maintenance,” Summit County engineer Ric Pocius said. “We don’t have the money to maintain a road that isn’t even necessary, and we wouldn’t have to accept the road as our responsibility.”
Representatives from Denver Water emphasized that realignment options were only ideas, and HDR engineers were contracted to explore at as many options as possible.
“We are nowhere close to choosing an alternative from these options,” Mahoney said. “We know there are fatal flaws with all of these ideas, so it’s important to identify those and then move forward together.”
Denver Water engineers said feedback from county stakeholders is crucial as the utility continues to iron out ideas, but Silverthorne community development director Mark Leidal expressed concerns that initial discussions regarding road alternatives began without county involvement.
“There are so many concerns that have to be considered for a project this size,” Leidal said. “We should have had this meeting long before any of these lines were drawn, and I don’t understand why we are being included so late in the game.”
Engineers at Denver Water say there are still more route options to consider before any plans are submitted to the board of directors, and the feedback collected during the meeting will be evaluated before any decisions are made.
“We don’t know our next step, but we know we have to make it together,” Denver Water project engineer Amy Turney said. “We now have all the issues on the table, and that is a good starting point.”
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