Funds for Highway 9 widening project uncertain
December 7, 2005
SUMMIT COUNTY – The latest version of the plan for widening Highway 9 between Farmer’s Korner and Breckenridge shows some significant improvements, especially for most residents in the Lakeview Meadows area, assistant county manager Thad Noll said after an open house Tuesday evening.Noll said the latest plan includes a traffic signal at Jarelle Drive and Dickey Drive, providing better and safer access to the highway from the main residential areas at Farmer’s Korner. Additionally, the highway has been pushed east, away from the Farmer’s Grove subdivision.”It looks like they really listened to the residents and homeowners association,” Noll said.”What the attempt is … is to reduce the impacts as much as possible with context-sensitive design,” said Wes Goff, project manager for consultant PBS&J. “We’re making a very strong effort to reduce right-of-way and environmental impacts in the corridor.”The funding picture for the five mile, $27 million highway project is unclear following the defeat of Referendum D, passage of which would have helped pay for the Highway 9 project. The Colorado Department of Transportation is still tentatively scheduling the start of construction for spring of 2007, but that could be an unrealistic target.”This was a Referendum D project,” Goff said, explaining that the Colorado Department of Transportation hasn’t indicated how it might replace the funds that were earmarked under Referendum D.”I wouldn’t go to Las Vegas and bet one nickel that construction will start in the next three to five years,” said Commissioner Bill Wallace, indicating that voter rejection of Referendum D and the competing demands for the money freed up by Referendum C will delay any implementation of the Highway 9 widening by several years.”Part of me feels Breckenridge Ski Resort should step up. They’re going to be the main beneficiary,” Wallace said. “I think there would be a lot better chance of getting this going if there were some kind of public-private partnership.”Goff also said there would be a better chance of getting the Highway 9 project off the ground if there is a strong show of public support.Wallace said that, when the need for widening Highway 6 between Dillon and Keystone was identified, Keystone Real Estate Development, the now dissolved Vail Resorts-Intrawest partnership, helped fund improvements associated with that project, including a pedestrian underpass at a cost of about $4 million and improvements to the intersection of Highway 6 and Swan Mountain Road. Those developer contributions were stipulated as part of the Keystone’s development plan.Wallace said there are significant highway safety issues around the state that are a higher priority than widening a highway for resort access.”We probably should look beyond our little enclave,” he said, singling out safety concerns at Dowd Junction (west of Vail) and at the Highway 82 bridge in Glenwood Springs as just a couple of critical trouble spots that need attention.Other Highway 9 widening issues that got some special attention at the open house included the need for some kind of rec path overpass at Swan Mountain Road, as well as potential plans for a critical wildlife underpass a few miles south of Farmer’s Korner.For more information on the project, visit http://www.dot.state.co.us/HWY9f2b.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.