Eagle County: Money crunch means rough roads | VailDaily.com

Eagle County: Money crunch means rough roads

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Ever wish they would re-pave Vail Pass or build a new interstate exit at Edwards? You may have to wait a few more years, Colorado Department of Transportation officials say.

State officials told county commissioners there was “bad news on the funding front” at a Tuesday meeting.

“Potentially in the next few years there won’t be any money for (bigger projects) besides projects that are already funded,” transportation commissioner Doug Aden said.

The expected total state transportation budget for this year was almost $1.3 billion, but after cuts in both state and federal funding, the budget will be closer to $1.1 billion.

Aden also warned that “contingency funds” that go toward emergencies like the mudslide at Dowd Junction is at a 10-year low.

Regional Transportation Planner Mark Rogers said the money shortage is due to a downturn in the economy ” when there is less money in the state’s general fund, the Department of Transportation is one of the first departments to get cuts, he said.

Also, part of the agency’s revenue comes from a federal gasoline tax, which has not been raised for years.

“As cars get more efficient, we get less tax money, and the tax doesn’t go up with gas prices,” Rogers said.

The state Legislature also made cuts in funds that usually go toward road resurfacing roads.

“That means that money is gone for the next few years. That means our road resurfacing projects will be delayed for the present,” Aden said.

A project planned for resurfacing I-70 from Gypsum to Eagle is still going to happen, but may be done over a few years, he said.

Projects that are planned to get full funding include $500,000 for an engineering study for Spur Road in Eagle and $11 million to build I-70 interchanges at Edwards.

“We’ll know for sure in the next few weeks, but we expect to get full funding for that,” Allen said.

However, officials did say the Edwards project would be delayed for few months.

Lack of funds prevented the Department of Transportation from starting with the right of way process, which takes about a year. County engineers had hoped to get the project started in early summer of 2009.

Also, resurfacing of I-70 from Minturn to East Vail and Highway 6 near Eagle is still planned for this summer.

Maintenance projects including paving the West Vail roundabout, patching potholes on I-70 and Highway 6, and salt and sand cleanup on Vail Pass will still continue.

Other future projects beyond fiscal year 2009 are on “shaky ground,” Rogers said.

That includes plans to resurface the Vail frontage roads and the west side of Vail Pass.

“You may not see the smoothest of rides,” Allen said of the pass. “There’ll be a lot of hand patches and short-term fixes.”

A state transportation panel has talked about ways to find more funding in the future ” ideas include increased vehicle registration fees, increased gas tax, and a “visitor fee” for renting cars or staying in hotels and motels.

Officials were short on answers on how the funding problem could be solved, but

Allen also suggested that people should talk to their legislators.

“Our biggest challenge is convincing the public that they should be concerned about

this. Would they be willing for a tax or a toll?” Aden said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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