CDOT to host "listening forum’ |

CDOT to host "listening forum’

SILVERTHORNE – Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials are holding a 13-hour public meeting at the Silverthorne Pavilion today to let people comment about proposed improvements to Interstate 70 from Golden to Glenwood Springs.

The meeting is open to the public and begins at 8 a.m.

Both CDOT Executive Director Tom Norton and Federal Highway Administration regional chief Bill Jones will be in attendance.

The so-called “listening forum” is designed so citizens can tell the agencies what they would like to see done to improve the congested interstate highway.

A variety of alternatives are outlined in the Programmatic Environmental Impact Study. All but the “do nothing” alternative involve expanding the number of lanes to six and boring a third tunnel in the Continental Divide.

Others include designated lanes for buses or fixed guideway systems, and others implement traffic management systems to handle surges of traffic at peak traffic times.

Two primary questions – from which numerous other questions will likely evolve – include an array of “what if” scenarios and the affordability of any of the alternatives.

A major consideration in the project is the cost, which, depending on which alternative is being discussed, could range from $1.2 billion to $8 billion. The agencies must take into consideration the technical and financial viability of each option.

Regardless, CDOT only has $1 billion – at best – to spend in the next 20 years, said Cecilia Joy, CDOT’s planning and environmental manager for the region.

“CDOT doesn’t have any money in the bank right now,” she said. “And some of these alternatives are quite expensive.”

It is possible that, while waiting for additional funds, CDOT could work on some smaller, less expensive projects before delving into the larger ones.

After the listening forum, CDOT will solicit comment from other federal agencies – the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Division of Wildlife, state department of health and the Environmental Protection Agency. They will then review the comments and technical data and announce next month a “grouping of preferred alternatives.” Those alternatives are the ones that have met the test of reasonable purpose and need and risen to the top based on the technical reports and public and agency comments.

By next year, CDOT hopes to create a draft PEIS, identify a preferred alternative and record a decision in the Federal Register by 2005.

“You can’t possibly collect any more data,” Joy said about the stacks of studies that have been conducted regarding the highway. “Now, it’s wrangling with what choices there are and what we need to do.”

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