Federal funds approved for Highway 9 widening | SummitDaily.com

Federal funds approved for Highway 9 widening

HARRIET HAMILTON
summit daily news

WASHINGTON ” The massive budget bill passed by the U.S. Congress this week includes nearly a $1 milliion in federal funds for the Highway 9 widening project between Frisco and Breckenridge.

The $980,000 earmarked for Summit County is among more than 9,000 individual allocations approved as part of the spending bill which will fund most federal agencies throughout the upcoming year.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) plans to start work on Highway 9 sometime this spring with the first phase of the project: the one-mile, $5 million section between Swan Mountain Road and the Agape church.

Second District U.S. Rep. Mark Udall pushed for inclusion of the earmark in the transportation portion of the so-called omnibus bill. Other western Colorado transportation projects funded by the bill include $980,000 for U.S. 491 in Montezuma County and $343,000 to the Eagle County Regional Airport for a runway extension. Overall, the bill authorizes Colorado to receive more than $100 million for transportation projects.

In the final vote, Summit County’s congressional delegation split on the omnibus package. Rep. Udall and Sen. Ken Salazar supported the bill, but Sen. Wayne Allard was one of only 17 senators to vote against the funding.

According to Allard spokesman Steve Wymer, the state’s Republican senator wholeheartedly supported funds earmarked for Colorado, but could not vote in favor of the bill because its final version included a moratorium through 2008 on commercial oil shale leases in the 100,000-acre Roan Plateau of western Colorado administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Allard has been at odds with Salazar and Udall over the appropriate use of the potentially huge reservoir of untapped fossil fuel located north of I-70 between Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. The two Democrats have both expressed concern about the possible environmental impact of rapid expansion of commercial leases in the area. Allard expressed frustration that the moratorium will unfairly restrict development of key Colorado resources.

“I am forced to take a principled stand for Colorado’s rural communities and voice my intention to oppose this shortsighted legislation,” he said.

When asked about the disagreement between the state’s two senators, Salazar defended his advocacy of a lease moratorium.

“I’m representing the people of the state of Colorado to make sure we’re protecting the land and the water,” he said. “When I get attacked by Sen. Allard and the giants of the Roan ” the gas companies ” well, they’re dead wrong.”

Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4651, or at hhamliton@summitdaily.com.


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