New hope for Eagle County airport interchange?
Eagle County, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” An Interstate 70 interchange that would make trips to Eagle County, Colorado’s airport quicker could be built with money from the president’s stimulus package after all.
When the American Recovery Act first passed, Eagle County officials were hopeful the interchange might make the list of projects to be funded. The county and Gypsum both spent an additional $12,500 to speed up the design by a month to make sure it was ready to go to bid in case the money was available.
But the $80 million price tag attached to the interchange kept it from making any funding list. The Colorado Department of Transportation received about $30 million to pay for transportation projects in a 14 county area that includes Eagle County.
But county officials said Tuesday they’ve found a $1.5 billion pot of money in the stimulus package and, so far, the interchange project meets the criteria.
“I think this may be the best chance we’ve ever had to get this thing funded,” said Commissioner Peter Runyon.
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Only projects that cost between $20 million to $300 million will be eligible for the grant money and the federal Secretary of Transportation will decide which get funded. The secretary has 90 days from when the president signed the stimulus bill ” which Barack Obama did in Denver on Feb. 17 ” to finalize the criteria for the grants.
“We don’t have a lot of details other than this,” said Weldon Allen, regional director for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The transportation department has spent about $8 million designing the interchange. Eagle County and Gypsum have collectively chipped in $255,000.
A local agency has to apply for the grant, but Allen said his agency would write a letter of support for the project as part of the application process.
“We hope it’ll fit well,” he said. “It’s really hard to fund when it’s got an $80 million price tag.”
The interchange design was supposed to be complete at the beginning of July, but officials decided to pay extra to have it done earlier so it could qualify as a project under the president’s plan.
Runyon championed the project on a recent trip to Washington D.C. and said he got tentative commitments from both Colorado senators and Eagle County’s congressman, Rep. Jared Polis, to write letters of support for the interchange.
“We spent the money to get it on the shelf,” Runyon said. “We stand a chance.”
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.