More Highway 9 four-laning possible this year |

More Highway 9 four-laning possible this year

Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

SUMMIT COUNTY ” State transportation officials are hopeful that another burst of federal stimulus dollars will help widen even more of Highway 9, between Frisco and Breckenridge, than originally planned for this summer.

Previously, the state announced that new lanes would be added between Valley Brook Road and Coyne Valley Road.

Updating county commissioners at a work session Tuesday, Colorado Department of Transportation planners said the early bids for various projects are averaging about 12 percent less than what the agency budgeted.

Any “leftover” money, along with a second round of federal transportation dollars, could go toward four-laning the highway between Valley Brook Road and Fairview.

State officials also touted the $8 million repaving of Interstate 70 between the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass as a poster child for the stimulus funding.

Federal stimulus money could also go toward studying I-70 hot spots like the Silverthorne and Empire interchanges, as well the Floyd Hill section, according to the presentation.

For the overall I-70 corridor project, the state officials cautioned that the Federal Highway Administration could require a supplemental environmental study, a step that would delay any construction by at least another year.

Right now, the state hopes to release a draft plan next summer, with a final decision in 2011, according to Tony DeVito, director for the state highway region covering I-70 from Golden through Summit and Eagle counties.

DeVito said his agency thinks the existing studies will stand up to federal scrutiny, thereby avoiding the need for a supplemental study.

Officials are also exploring the idea of designating I-70 as a “corridor of national significance,” a move that that could also help garner more money. But it’s not clear if that’s a realistic option, given that some urban highway corridors carry more traffic in a three-day period than I-70 does in a year.

“We’re trying to play the game without knowing the rules,” said Frisco town manager Michael Penny, who also serves as chair of the I-70 coalition.

Some federal grant money is also going toward improving Straight Creek. The small stream flowing below I-70 is the primary water supply for Dillon. Local, state and federal officials have been measuring levels of sand in the stream for years. The transportation department has tried to catch highway sand before it reaches the stream, and re-vegetation efforts on the road cuts have also helped reduce stream pollution.

A $35,000 grant will help the county move ahead with a $300,000 plan to start heating the recycling center at the landfill with pellet fuels made from beetle-killed trees.

The grant money needs to be spent by the end of June, so the county will speed ahead with plans to design the boiler and also use part of the money as a down payment, according to assistant county manager Scott Vargo.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, of at

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