Vail Daily editorial: Time to devolve
August 4, 2015
Eagle and Gypsum seem to be well on the way to owning U.S. Highway 6 between and through the two towns, and that looks like a good idea.
The Colorado Department of Transportation earlier this year approved a plan in which the state would provide a one-time payment of $12.1 million for the municipalities to take over future maintenance of the highway between the towns. That's not a lot of money in the world of road work. Still, given the department's chronic cash shortage, it's probably the best deal available.
Paying Eagle and Gypsum to take over that stretch of road has several benefits, primarily regarding paperwork. The people at the transportation department's Eagle office are dedicated professionals who do good work, but their job is to find ways to make local developments and other projects mesh with rules that apply to the entire state. That's not an easy process.
In the same vein, turning Highway 6 over to the towns could ease potential conflicts regarding working in and around the highway right-of-way. Again, these are rules that apply to the entire state and don't always work as they should given the local topography.
In short, taking over the roadway cuts a lot of bureaucratic blah-blah-blah out of future projects, perhaps making both public and private development along the road somewhat easier.
Local matching funds are crucial when it's time to apply for state and federal grants for future projects. A substantial part of the state's one-time payment could be set aside for those future grants.
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Of course, an even bigger portion of the state payment should be set aside for paving, plowing, striping and similar maintenance jobs, since the cost of that work will surely only increase in coming years.
From the looks of it, there are still a few details to hammer out between the towns, such as an appropriate split of the state funds between the towns, who would own any additional equipment and how to pay for new employees if needed. Then there's the fact, again, that $12.1 million isn't a lot of money for road work.
Still, the one-time payment is probably the best deal the towns will get from the state, and will allow local control of what is, in fact, a local road.
The towns should — and almost certainly will — get this deal done.