CDOT funding for Silverthorne Exit 205 stalled because of 2020 decision

Traffic from Interstate 70 takes Exit 205 into Silverthorne on March 25, 2021. Though Exit 205 has been identified as a high priority for Summit County construction projects, funding has been hard to secure because of a decision made in 2020.
Ashley Low/Summit Daily News archive

There are three traffic projects that have been identified as a priority in Summit County, and all of them require money, resources and time that the county can’t faithfully secure.  

Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the three main problem areas are Exit 203 in Frisco, Exit 205 in Silverthorne and the need for an auxiliary lane on Interstate 70. 

In 2020, the Colorado Department of Transportation created a 10-year plan that would outline funding for projects across the state.

When the plan was created, Summit County outlined the first two priorities as Exit 203 and the auxiliary lane for Interstate 70.

Pogue said at the time Exit 205 was deemed less important than Exit 203 or the auxiliary lane. She added, however, “205 has become a much bigger issue than anticipated.”

In 2020, the Grizzly Creek Fire happened on the outskirts of Glenwood Canyon. The Glenwood Canyon section of Interstate 70 was closed for weeks at the time, which led to heavy traffic in Silverthorne — the most ideal reroute for folks heading west.   

Though the Grizzly Creek Fire was put out, a burn scar now exists that was — and still is — prone to rock slides. Any time flash floods closed Glenwood Canyon this summer, Silverthorne was affected again by a rush of visitors. 

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and people were shut in their homes to isolate. Both Pogue and Summit County Commissioner Joshua Blanchard said traffic volumes since then have put extreme stress on Summit County’s roadways. 

The combination of both historic occurrences have changed the area. 

“Silverthorne and Dillon have become a nexus where people stop and wait or they move on,” Blanchard said, “so I think that’s been a pretty big game changer when we think about why things, maybe, were prioritized in 2020 or prior to 2020. The universe has just changed a bit.”

Though priorities have changed, the funding is not as easy to manipulate. Summit County is in competition with all other counties of Region 3, otherwise known as the Intermountain Transportation Planning Region. 

“Getting these projects ready to a point where they can be considered for funding is a multiyear process,” Pogue said. 

With 15 counties in its jurisdiction, Region 3 is also the largest swath of land CDOT controls throughout the whole state, according to a CDOT Region 3 County Meeting presentation. That means whatever funding is allocated for the region is heavily competed for. 

Mark Rogers, the CDOT Region 3 planning manager, said it’s necessary to “share” the funding. 

While all areas within Region 3 are vying for project dollars, Pogue says Summit County is one of the most utilized areas within the entire state.

On top of this, funding is only allocated every 10 years, and many projects require surveys and approval conducted by officials with the planning region. 

For example, studies and analysis on Exit 205 in Silverthorne have gone back as far back as 2012. A tentative plan to install a “diverging diamond interchange” has been proposed before, but another survey must be done to prove the necessity and benefit of the project for funding. 

Even then, Rogers said it can take two to three years to get a project from the idea stage to the beginning of construction. 

Pogue said Summit County’s infrastructure can barely handle the amount of transportation flooding in and out of the county on a daily basis, leaving the county in dire need for funding and quick project turnarounds — something CDOT cannot always provide.

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