Eagle, Gypsum intrigued with plan to take over US 6 | VailDaily.com

Eagle, Gypsum intrigued with plan to take over US 6

EAGLE — It sounds like a boatload of money, but $12.1 million doesn't really stretch that far when its dedicated to the realm of road improvements and slated to last forever.

However, the towns of Eagle and Gypsum are poised to take that money and take over responsibility of U.S. Highway 6 as it extends the seven miles through both communities.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Department of Transportation approved a devolution plan for the seven miles of U.S. Highway 6 that extend from the Eby Creek Road roundabout in Eagle westward to the roundabout in Gypsum.

The $12.1 million represents the amount CDOT estimates it would spend on road maintenance over the next 20 years. While the devolution plan switches maintenance responsibility over to the towns, it also gives Eagle and Gypsum jurisdiction over the roadway and that control ultimately holds the most attraction for the municipalities.

Eagle Town Engineer Tom Gosiorowski and Gypsum Town Engineer Jim Hancock presented the devolution proposal to the Eagle Town Board last week. Two weeks ago, the Gypsum Town Council signaled their commitment to proceed with the plan.

"This roadway does not really function as a state aerial in terms of transportation needs. It really functions as a local street," said Gosiorowski.

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In that vein, Gosiorowski noted that U.S. Highway 6 improvements are the next big capital project Eagle faces. While the town has been very successful in obtaining state and federal grant money for previous projects, including the Eby Creek Road roundabouts, Gosiorowski is skeptical about the availability of future funding.

"I think it would be many years before we get to the front of the line for any money that would be available," he said.

Martha Miller, resident engineer for CDOT, agreed that the benefit of the devolution plan isn't the money the towns would receive. "It gives you more flexibility," she noted.

Gypsum support

Hancock noted that Gypsum has largely funded its own highway improvements and is enthused by the idea of municipal, rather than state, control over U.S. Highway 6.

"We just see this as an opportunity. I would like to get a better price, but this is the best offer we have ever heard from the state," Hancock said.

As for division of the $12.1 million, Gosiorowski and Hancock have proposed a split that calculates the amount of square feet of U.S. Highway 6 pavement in each community. The formula accounts for the main highway and for acceleration and deceleration lanes as well. Bridges and drainage structures also play into the mix. Using those parameters, $10.5 million would go to Gypsum and $1.6 million would go to Eagle.

While the Eagle board floated the idea of creating a special district to oversee the entire U.S. Highway 6 corridor and manage the $12.1 million, members voiced support for the overall devolution effort.

"In my mind, this has been a long time coming," said Eagle Town Board member Luis Benitez.

"I think this is a good idea but the devil is in the split," said town board member Anne McKibbin.

The only member of the public who weighed in on the plan offered support. "This corridor is central to Eagle's future and I think it is mandatory to have control over it," said Eagle resident Jamie Harrison.

The town board unanimously agreed to direct staff to work with CDOT on the devolution plan. Gosiorowski said the next few months will include detailed study of the roadway and a final agreement will likely come back to the towns in the spring of 2016.