State and federal grants to fund most of 2019 sidewalk project in Minturn | VailDaily.com

State and federal grants to fund most of 2019 sidewalk project in Minturn

A pedestrian walks down the side of the road on Tuesday, May 8, in Minturn. A $1 million grant was awarded by the Department of Local Affairs to add sidewalks, curb, gutter, drainage and storm water filtration.

MINTURN — When George Brodin and his family moved to Minturn in 1984, there were still some wooden water lines in town and long stretches of Main Street had no sidewalks. The old water lines are long gone, but walking on Main Street is still the norm.

That's going to change next year, when a significant stretch of Main Street will be part of a project to install curbs, gutters and, yes, sidewalks. The project has been years in the making, in large part due to cost.

The town recently received a pair of $1 million grants, one from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the other from the federal Transportation Alternative Grant program. The town is putting in $500,000 in matching funds to make the project work.

Saving it up

In chronically cash-strapped Minturn, saving $500,000 — about 20 percent of the project's estimated $2.5 million cost — took several years.

Minturn Mayor Matt Scherr said those savings came from saving a bit of money here and there on capital projects.

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"We've been trying to move a little more toward enhancements than just maintaining what we have," Scherr said. "If we don't do that, we'll have a hard time."

Improvements in streets and sidewalks are part of an overall goal of building the town's tax base. As in most Colorado towns, the tax base depends in large part on sales tax collections. That requires a thriving business environment.

A better, safer way to get on foot from downtown to the town's Cemetery Bridge — and the popular Little Beach Park — can help that effort.

The new sidewalks will also help draw people — mostly residents — from south of the bridge to the park and downtown. It will also create a safer way for kids to walk around town.

Getting people off the street has longtime resident Darell Wegert excited.

"This is going to be a lot better for safety," Wegert said.

Wegert was the town's mayor in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He said the council then tried to find a way to fund a project but just couldn't make it happen.

Eagle River health

Scherr and Brodin, a current council member, credited the town's staff with making this project work.

Besides pedestrian safety, the project will also address ways to catch and treat stormwater and highway runoff. That's an important part of stream health in the Eagle River.

Eagle River Watershed Council Director Holly Loff praised the town for including storm sewers in the sidewalk plan.

The town of Vail is currently working on cleaning up Gore Creek, which in 2013 landed on a state list of impaired waterways. Loff said more river stretches are set to land on that state list in coming years, and stormwater is one of the biggest contributors to stream pollution.

Minturn "is getting in front of it," Loff said. "It's really exciting they had the foresight to put in storm (drainage) infrastructure."

The curb and gutter work associated with the project is going to require working with property owners along Main Street. Those property owners and the town need to enter into contracts called easements to allow the work to be done.

That process is "moving along," Brodin said.

"It's hard to give away something you thought was your driveway," Brodin said, adding that the public benefit should outweigh many property owners' concerns.

Since the project may narrow the road in stretches, one of those benefits may include slowing some traffic through town, something residents have long worried about.

The sidewalk work will be done concurrently with a large highway-resurfacing project for U.S. Highway 24 planned for 2019. The Colorado Department of Transportation will resurface the highway between roughly Dowd Junction and Maloit Park on the south end of town. The state will roll the sidewalk construction into the re-paving work and manage the entire project.

That means driving through town will be a challenge for much of next year.

With the sidewalk work now mostly a sure thing, Brodin said town officials can start working on the item on a decades-long to-do list: Some kind of trail or recreation path out to Maloit Park, site of the town's recreation center and the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy.

That's a different kind of project.

"It'll eventually happen," Wegert said of a possible trail. "But this (sidewalk) project is for families in town. This is great news."

Vail Daily business editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 and smiller@vaildaily.com.

Four facts

Location: Minturn’s Main Street, between roughly Kirby Cosmo’s BBQ Bar and Battle Mountain Trading Post.

Timing: The project will be done in 2019 in conjunction with a resurfacing project on Main Street.

Cost: Roughly $2.5 million.

Town’s share: About $500,000.

Source: Town of Minturn