Eagle County prepares for chance at federal transit money | VailDaily.com

Eagle County prepares for chance at federal transit money

Chris Outcalt
Eagle, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Eagle County, Colorado wants a piece of the $60 billion President-Elect Barack Obama wants to spend on transportation projects.

Obama has eyed forming a National Infrastructure Bank that would have $60 billion of federal money to spend over 10 years on transportation infrastructure projects. The projects will directly and indirectly create up to 2 million new jobs and stimulate about $35 billion a year in new economic activity, according to Obama’s Web site.

County Administrator Bruce Baumgartner has followed the possibility of federal funds being made available and is trying to put the county in position to get some of the money.

“I’m taking all the info and just saying ‘Let’s bring as much money from this program to Eagle County as we can,'” Baumgartner said.

County commissioners reviewed a project list compiled by Baumgartner and County Engineer Eva Wilson on Monday during a work session.

“It makes perfectly good sense to be ready,” said Commissioner Sara Fisher.

The list includes 14 different transit, road and general infrastructure projects ranging from improving intersections and sidewalks to adding shoulders to parts of Highway 6.

“If (the money) comes out, we’ll be ready,” said Wilson.

All the projects on the list have been discussed by the commissioners. Baumgartner said.

“They’re all priority projects,” Baumgartner said. “They won’t necessarily get done next year, but they’re important projects for the county.”

Baumgartner said there’s no way to tell what process the county would have to follow in order to get any federal funds that become available. But he’s taking clues from a bill that passed in the U.S. House and stalled in the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

The House bill eyed pumping more than $35 million into infrastructure projects. The key component of the bill, Baumgartner said, was that only projects that could be under construction in 120 days would be eligible for the money.

“You want to know that it’s feasible to get it under contract,” Baumgartner said.

That would involve having about 30 percent of the project design completed, he said.

In some cases, the county has already budgeted some money to work on the projects.

“They’re projects that are important for public transportation purposes ” they will need to be funded sometime,” Baumgartner said. “We have already started some of the design work with our own money.”

The county is trying to be as prepared as possible, he said.

“If you listen to Obama and his transit people, I think it’s very clear that he’s likely to consider an economic stimulus package,” Baumgartner said.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.

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