Grand Co. pledges nearly $3.1M to improve Hwy. 9 | SummitDaily.com

Grand Co. pledges nearly $3.1M to improve Hwy. 9

Leia Larsen
Sky-Hi Daily News
A rendering shows one of five under passes that are part of a $46 million improvement project planned for Highway 9 south of Kremmling. The underpasses and fencing are intended to help keep wildlife off the road, for the safety of the animals and drivers on the rural road. Special to the Sky-Hi News/Citizens for a Safe Hwy. 9 Committee

After a grassroots blitz and robust fundraising effort, Grand County commissioners voted to fill in the remaining financial gap for the Highway 9 safety improvement project.

The project, spearheaded by the local Citizens for a Safe Highway 9 committee, will improve a 10-mile stretch of the highway with wildlife crossings, widening and realignments. The committee had until July 1 to raise 20 percent of the $46 million project, but found itself $3.07 million short by the county commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday.

Committee members and concerned residents implored commissioners to pledge the remaining support.

“You can’t put a price on life, and this is going to save lives,” said committee member Larry Lunceford.

Since 1993, there have been hundreds of accidents and 16 fatalities on the highway, which is a major corridor between Summit and Grand counties.

Committee member Perry Handyside labeled funding as the “rainy day.”

“Today is that rainy day we’ve been waiting for, that Grand County has been waiting for. Today is the day we have to make that decision,” he said.

After listening to public comments, Commissioner Merrit Linke called the Highway 9 safety project an opportunity for commissioners to invest in the county’s future rather than an expense.

“It’s more to me than saving for a rainy day,” he said. “An investment implies a return on your money, where an expense is money out the window.”

The bulk of the project will be financed by CDOT’s Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance Partnerships program, or “RAMP,” but the program requires local governments to raise 20 percent by the July 1 deadline to be considered.

Through grassroots fundraising, the committee secured $931,000 in pledges, a $4.9 million donation from Blue Valley Ranch and a $250,000 donation from Summit County.

“To me, this is a one-time chance to get it done,” said Commissioner Gary Bumgarner.

While Commissioner James Newberry called it an outstanding project, he took issue with its method of funding. It’s a state highway and the state’s responsibility to pay, he said.

“We’re being asked for $3 million from the county,” Newberry said. “You call it a rainy day fund, (but) there’s been a lot of sacrifice made to get the money we have, to pay off all the debt in this county.”

After expressing his concerns, however, Newberry joined Linke and Bumgarner to cast his vote in support of the project.

The project now goes to CDOT for review. A decision is expected in September. If approved, construction will begin in 2014 and is expected to take two years. The RAMP program requires projects to be completed by 2017.


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