Summit towns wary of forming an I-70 group |

Summit towns wary of forming an I-70 group

Christine McManus/Summit County Correspondent

There is a way that mountain communities can sharpen their scissors to cut the red tape that’s tying up Interstate 70, says Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder.

If municipalities from Idaho Springs to Avon formed an alliance, they’d be more powerful in negotiations with the gatekeepers of highway funds, Udall said.

The towns and counties would have to agree on solutions to business-crippling traffic congestion. Foremost, they would have to agree whether to focus first on highway expansion or a guided-rail system.

Udall submitted a congressional request for $2.2 billion in transportation funding. He’s still waiting to hear back as Capitol Hill finance committees figure out budgets. They are wrestling with one of the highest deficits the nation has ever tallied.

A Boulder-area alliance of communities along the U.S. Highway 36 corridor has been successful with highway funding the past several years. Together, the cities and counties persuaded the Colorado Department of Transportation to spend millions of dollars unclogging their corridor.

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Weeks ago, Summit County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom asked area towns to join an alliance. But no one has signed up. Not yet, anyway.

Dillon Mayor Barbara Davis received Lindstrom’s invitation to join the alliance. At a recent meeting, she asked her fellow council members whether they wanted to join the new I-70 group.

“What for?” they asked.

“Is this part of Lindstrom’s campaign for state Legislature?” asked one council member.

Davis said she’d try to find out more about the alliance. The Dillon Town Council has not formally agreed to join.

Silverthorne Mayor Lou DelPiccolo also received Lindstrom’s invitation. His fellow council members last month scrutinized the idea.

“Isn’t this what we have the Northwest Council of Governments for?” said Silverthorne Councilwoman Sheila Groneman.

The town councils wondered how much the alliance would cost. They also were skeptical that the alliance would be just another ineffective government agency.

The Frisco Town Council will soon review the invitation, said interim town manager Theresa Casey.

“An alliance would give them the influence and power necessary to have a say in how upgrades are made, more so than on an individual basis,” said Udall spokesman Lawrence Pacheco. “Otherwise CDOT will come in and tell towns along I-70 what they’re going to do.”

It is too early to take any options off the drawing board, Pacheco said, despite the fact that the Department of Transportation no longer appears to be studying the monorail, a popular concept in the High Country.

Pacheco recommended that towns and counties along I-70 send a lobbyist to Denver and Washington, D.C. Other Colorado counties that have traveled to the state and national capitols have received much-needed transportation dollars.

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