State budget shortfalls will soon show on Summit County roads | VailDaily.com

State budget shortfalls will soon show on Summit County roads

Robert Allen
summit daily news

Summit Daily file photo/Mark FoxThe four-laning of Hwy. 9 between Frisco and Breckenridge continues to be a priority for CDOT and the county.

BRECKENRIDGE – Shrinking funds could cause local highways to deteriorate in the next few years as the Colorado Department of Transportation feels the punch of state budget shortfalls.

Federal stimulus finances have recently helped push through projects such as the widening of Highway 9 north of Breckenridge.

“That’s all going to wash out of the system, most of it this year,” said CDOT district 7 commissioner Doug Aden on Tuesday, adding that if the budget stays the same, “citizens are going to notice a decline in the quality of roads.”

He said the transportation department’s estimated $1 billion budget is similar to the funding level when he joined the commission more than 10 years ago. He said lost purchasing power and increased needs on the system could lead to problems.

CDOT funding peaked at about $1.6 billion in 2007. From 2005 to 2008, revenue was taken from the state’s general fund to support CDOT. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped keep funding above $1.3 billion through 2009, but both sources appear to be lacking in the next few years.

For a breakdown of CDOT’s budget, see the PowerPoint attached to this story at http://www.summitdaily.com.

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Aden and other CDOT representatives met with the Summit County Commissioners on Tuesday to discuss priorities and plans, and they moved the financial outlook to the top of the agenda.

Aden said an example of the impacts is the estimated $100 million available for surface treatment when $500 million is needed.

Most of CDOT’s revenue from the state (comprising 59 percent of its budget) comes through a gas tax of 22 cents per gallon. More fuel-efficient vehicles on the road are cutting into those dollars, and that’ll only get worse, Aden said.

“On the national and state level, it looks like its been a few years since the gas tax peaked,” Aden said. “Over time a motor-fuel based system is just not going to be sustainable, as there are different ways of powering cars.”

Summit County has 16 miles of highway segments “in poor condition” and 10 miles of “congested” highways, according to CDOT data.

The state has 128 bridges rated “poor,” but none are in Summit County.

Highway improvement projects under way are costing about $27 million, but about $34 million is needed to support future projects.

Those under way include $10 million in road resurfacing along Interstate 70 between Frisco and Vail Pass and $9.25 million for the Highway 9 widening between Valley Brook Street and Coyne Valley Road, among others.

Future projects include further widening along Hwy. 9 costing about $12.5 million to have four continuous lanes from Breckenridge to Farmer’s Korner as well as improvements to several highways and recreation paths across the county.

The county government provided CDOT with a list of 16 priorities from the local perspective. CDOT officials remarked that Summit was the only one of seven county governments to be prepared with a list of projects.

Hwy. 9 – complete from Breckenridge to Frisco – was at the top of the list.

“We need to stay focused on Highway 9,” County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said. “We know that the next section is a tough one, but it’s important.

“You’re connecting four lanes to the busiest ski area in North America if we get this done.”

Another project of priority for both CDOT and the county is to improve the Silverthorne interchange, where Interstate 70 traffic meets Hwy. 9 and U.S. 6.

CDOT has a $2.5 million feasibility study on its list of ongoing projects.

“We are very interested in that,” Davidson said.

SDN reporter Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.