Eagle, Gypsum eye Highway 6 takeover | VailDaily.com

Eagle, Gypsum eye Highway 6 takeover

Pam Boyd and Sarah Mausolf
Eagle, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Eagle and Gypsum are one step closer to taking control of Highway 6.

Town officials decided Tuesday night to pursue a state program that would transfer Highway 6 maintenance responsibilities from the state to local governments.

Eagle and Gypsum would share a $11.76 million lump sum payment to maintain the stretch of Highway 6 that crosses through those towns. The state’s calculation indicates that’s enough money to cover 20 years worth of road work.

Gypsum officials unanimously approved the Highway 6 takeover during Tuesday’s board meeting. Councilman Tim McMichael views the state program, which comes with some money attached, as a viable alternative to waiting until the state decides to stop funding highways that run through towns.

“I think it’s a benefit surely for the town,” he said. “The reality is: Somewhere in time the state is going to do away with funding those highways within town limits.”

Plus, Gypsum will be able to move forward more quickly on road projects now that the town won’t have to seek CDOT approval, he said.

For instance, developers have to gain CDOT approval when they build roads that intersect with Highway 6, and this can lead to delays in those projects, McMichael said.

The only potential downside to the Highway 6 takeover, as he sees it, is the fact that the $11.76 million won’t last forever.

“I think that potentially, if the money is not managed right, we could run into a problem after year 20 because you have extinguished funds. How do you fund improvements or repairs to the road after the 20-year point?”

As McMichael sees it, though, future boards won’t have to raise taxes to cover Highway 6 maintenance costs. Most road improvements are caused by the traffic generated by new developments, and McMichael said the town requires developers to cover those costs.

Mayor Steve Carver agreed the Highway 6 transfer is a good idea.

“We will have control of Highway 6,” he said. “We won’t have to go through a lot of red tape to get approval for different things, access and things like that.”

For instance, he said the town can move more quickly on approving access roads for future developments, building culverts and repairing stoplights.

While Eagle Town Board members agreed to partner with their Gypsum counterparts to examine the Highway 6 program, they were a bit more cautious about the deal.

In particular, Eagle officials noted that the lump sum payment will not cover costs of future improvements and if they opt for Highway 6 ownership, the town can’t come back to the state for money.

Those improvements could include a multi-million road expansion project. Town officials also noted that 1 1/2 miles of the roadway are currently in unicorporated Eagle County and that ownership issue must be resolved.

Eagle officials balked at signing a resolution that would commit them to proceeding with the takeover deal. Instead, they opted to re-word the document so that it only commits the town to “pursue an intergovermental agreement” for the takeover.

Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosoirowski the state’s offer for lump sum payment may be a one-shot deal and right now, the Highway 6 proposal for Gypsum and Eagle has top priority for program funding. In that vein, Eagle officials opted to keep the deal alive while they explore the intergovernmental agreement.

Now that Eagle and Gypsum have agreed to pursue a Highway 6 takeover agreement, the next step is a state transportation commission meeting on Thursday, during which the state will allocate the money, Gypsum engineering technician Ross Morgan said earlier.

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