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New road talks start without County

ASHLEY DICKSON
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Denver Water officials have been considering an alternate route to shift traffic away from the Dillon Dam Road since at least January, but local officials learned about the proposal for a new road only in recent weeks.

The revelation comes to light after the water utility abruptly closed the Dam Road last Tuesday ” giving locals only six hours of advance notice ” although officials say the two issues are “parallel” but not connected.

But even in first broaching the idea of creating a new road with the Colorado Department of Transportation last month, Denver Water failed to notify local officials, including planners in Silverthorne whose work on a proposed Home Depot would be affected.



“Why is it that we’re receiving the plans for your proposed road relocation in an e-mail from CDOT rather than directly from you?” assistant county manager Thad Noll wrote in an e-mail to Denver Water engineer Amy Turney.

“I would think that something of this magnitude would rise to the top of the list of things to discuss with us,” he continued.



The proposed route would branch off of Stephen’s Way near the Factory Stores in Silverthorne and would run on the south side of Interstate 70 before climbing over a ridge and rejoining the Dam Road in Frisco.

Silverthorne community development director Mark Leidal learned about the proposal and a June 27 meeting between Denver Water and CDOT through casual conversations with highway department section manager Jay Kramer just a week earlier.

“I remember he casually said: ‘Hey have you seen this proposal from Denver Water?’ I hadn’t heard anything about it, so I asked him to e-mail it to me,” Leidal said. “Even though the plans were preliminary, we would like to be included in the initial stages of anything that affects our jurisdiction.”

Leidal and Kramer quickly notified several other county representatives through e-mail, attaching the proposal and feedback from various CDOT officials who took time to review the hypothetical plans.

Minutes from the June 27 meeting show that local entities presented some eight notable concerns regarding the new proposed road location.

In addition to traffic-congestion issues, representatives from Summit County Road and Bridge noted that a roadway link from Frisco to Dillon would require constant maintenance, and any new alternative would need to be designed so that it could be cost effectively maintained by the county.

Silverthorne officials had a different concern.

“The proposed road goes right through the site where Home Depot wants to put a store,” Leidal said.

During the meeting, representatives from Denver Water stressed that the project was in the conceptual phase ” although they have identified on maps a route just north of the Old Dillon Reservoir and along I-70 ” and that they were conducting a feasibility study to determine costs and identify all the stakeholders.

“It is still not concrete, but we wanted to sit down with CDOT and get their input on the area we were looking at,” Denver Water director of operations Brian Good said. “We have been talking about this since January and thought it was just now time to get feedback from other agencies.”

Denver Water’s Turney indicated in an e-mail to CDOT’s Kramer that the agency wanted to create a new route because of security concerns over public access to the dam from the road.

“With increasing emphasis on homeland-security issues and the potential destruction of this critical section of I-70 and devastating loss of life in Silverthorne and surrounding areas if Dillon Dam were to breach,” she wrote, “our board has given us direction to see if there are any viable relocation alternatives.”

Officials at the utility say the decision to close the Dillon Dam Road for security purposes was completely separate from discussions regarding the proposed new roadway.

The Denver Water Board received new information from undisclosed federal agencies regarding the dam’s vulnerability to potential threats after the June 27 meeting and made the decision the close the road after deliberating for only a few days.

“We were on parallel decision points,” Good said. “Had we not received any new information, we would have proceeded with alternative route options and then closed the Dam Road later when we had a concrete plan.”

Summit County’s Noll said he had no idea before the meeting that Denver Water officials already were sitting down with maps and engineers to examine a specific route.

“We knew Denver Water was doing a feasibility study about whether an alternative route was possible, but we had no idea they already had some outlines proposed,” he said.

Noll expressed his dismay to Turney “after all we’ve been through … in trying to open up communication between Denver Water and Summit County government.”

Turney offered her “sincere apologies” for the oversight, saying that the organization approached only CDOT at first to determine whether the road could be built along the I-70 right-of-way.

“I hope you can see that the county was not left out of the loop intentionally, but rather that the project has not been developed enough to warrant discussion,” she wrote in an e-mail obtained by the Summit Daily News.

Denver Water officials believe the project could cost up to $35 million, and Turney indicated “the costs appear to be well beyond what Denver Water could fund, so I am unsure of the project’s future.”

Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at adickson@summitdaily.com.


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