Plans for Highway 9 would create four continuous lanes from Breckenridge to Interstate 70 | SummitDaily.com

Plans for Highway 9 would create four continuous lanes from Breckenridge to Interstate 70

Transportation officials are firming up plans for a road project that would cap off more than a decade of improvements along the Summit County Highway 9 corridor and dramatically reshape four intersections at the entrance to Frisco.

The Colorado Department of Transportation's so-called "gap project" would be the successor to the Iron Springs Bypass, which expanded the highway between Farmer's Korner and St. Anthony Summit Medical Center to four lanes. That project was completed last November at a total cost of $23 million.

The gap project would widen the final stretch of road into Frisco, establishing four full lanes of traffic from Breckenridge all the way to Interstate 70. The expansion is a major priority for Summit County Government and town of Frisco. Representatives of both met with CDOT officials on Tuesday to discuss a preliminary design.

"This is a project that's been underway for a little over a year and its made great progress, and this is sort of a milestone," Frisco town manager Randy Ready said. "We're at a point now where we're nearly able to turn this project around and have design plans ready by the fall of this year."

An open house meeting presenting the design is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 24, at the Frisco Day Lodge from 5-7 p.m. The public will be invited to get a closer look at the plans and offer their input.

In addition to the added lanes, the latest plan for the project would call for a new roundabout at the Eighth Avenue intersection and either a roundabout or a new traffic signal at the Water Dance Drive intersection.

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The plan also calls for noise walls in front of three subdivisions lining Highway 9 between Nancy's Place Drive and Eighth Avenue, raised medians between the new lanes and a pedestrian underpass leading from the County Commons bus stop to the Peninsula Recreation Area.

The stretch of road between the hospital and Main Street is riven with complications, and the Eighth Avenue intersection is particularly troublesome.

The road currently serves as an alternative to Main Street for residents on the south side of town, and the nearby fire station will soon be expanded into a joint emergency services center for the Summit County Ambulance Service and Summit Fire and EMS, meaning more emergency traffic. CDOT has decided that a roundabout is likely the best option for the spot.

"I think we're set with this one," CDOT project manager Grant Anderson said. "We've analyzed it probably to death, so I think this is what we're going forward with."

So far, the agency has designed about 50 percent of the project and hopes to get to 80 percent by the fall.

A larger traffic circle is also CDOT's preferred option for the intersection with Water Dance Road and Peak One Boulevard at the entrance to the County Commons. Whether or not CDOT goes with a traffic signal instead is a question of funding, Anderson said.

The total budget for the project is estimated at about $10 million, but that's CDOT's bare-bones estimate. If Frisco wants to add aesthetic touches — by sprucing up the raised medians or re-planting trees in front of the noise walls, for instance — it would have to contribute some of its own money and agree to pay for maintenance.

Where money for the project will come from in the first place is still an open question. CDOT has a $9 billion backlog of transportation projects across the state, and the state Legislature's purse strings have been tight for years.

They loosened a bit on Tuesday night, however, when lawmakers passed a compromise bill that sets aside $645 million for transportation projects over two years. Senate Bill 1 will also ask voters to approve $2.34 billion in transportation bonds come November.

Outside groups like the Denver Chamber of Commerce are also developing ballot measures that would raise money for transportation through a tax increase. If that measure or any other outside referendum on transportation funding passes, it would cancel out the Senate Bill 1 bond question.