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ARCHIVED  June 4, 1999

Highway bonds won’t fund region’s projects

The lion’s share of federal funds allocated through Gov. Bill Owens’ proposed transportation bonds will probably go to improving the Southeast Corridor of Interstate 25 connecting Colfax Avenue to the Denver Tech Center, officials say.

Since the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the bond issue, which provides for the sale of transportation revenue anticipation notes, must be approved by voters, the dollar amount in question has risen from $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion. Although no portion of these funds is specifically earmarked for transportation projects in Northern Colorado, at least two projects here have been listed among the “Strategic 28” projects statewide that are due to receive funding in coming years and could receive some portion of the money from the transportation bonds.

Karla Harding, Colorado Department of Transportation region director for the northeastern part of the state, said that federal funds will likely go to the Southeast Corridor to widen I-25 and install light rail. While most of the funding for the Strategic 28 projects would come from state dollars.

One strategic 28 project in Northern Colorado calls for the widening of U.S. Highway 287 from Longmont to Loveland with a bypass to be built around Berthoud. Construction costs for that project would total about $75 million.

“They’re working on the south end now at Longmont,” Harding said.

The project provides for replacing bridges and other structures. Although the state DOT had hoped to complete this work by 2003, it could be extended beyond that time.

Another undertaking will be to rebuild the interchange at Colorado Highway 52 on I-25 and build and improve the interchange at the Erie exit, Harding said. The I-25 lanes in that area also will be widened to provide for more traffic capacity.

Construction costs for the Colo. 52 interchange will total about $15 million, while the Erie interchange could cost about $18 million.

“There are also significant costs to purchase right-of-way,” Harding said. Another project that is not part of the state’s Strategic 28 projects is the Interstate 76 corridor from Denver northeast to Interstate 80 near Julesburg.

“It’s in bad condition. If we fix it, possibly federal funds will go to it,” Harding said. “It needs resurfacing. It was built in the 1960s and has gone beyond its design life.”

The road starts in Denver near Wadsworth Boulevard and Interstate 70, she said. It runs diagonally to the northeast corner of the state, crossing I-25 and running through Fort Morgan, Brush and Sterling.

All the urban areas of the state have similar kinds of transportation needs, said Ron Phillips, executive director of the Northern Front Range Transportation and Air Quality Planning Council, the regional transportation planning organization for the area that includes Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland.

A regional plan identifies $1 billion worth of transportation needs, he said. However, anticipated revenues for transportation projects over the next 20 years provide for only $230 million.

“That doesn’t even include the strategic projects,” Phillips said.

All of the 28 strategic projects are scheduled to be completed in the next 15 to 25 years, he said.

One strategic project recently completed in this area was the widening of the U.S. Highway 34 bypass at Greeley to four lanes. The $34 million project wrapped up in April.

Phillips, who also serves as director of transportation services for the city of Fort Collins, also noted that a major investment study of the corridor area of I-25 from Fort Collins to Denver is expected to be completed this summer. It will look at options for increasing mobility.

Some $600 million to $900 million may be allocated to that project over a 20-year plan, Phillips said.

The lion’s share of federal funds allocated through Gov. Bill Owens’ proposed transportation bonds will probably go to improving the Southeast Corridor of Interstate 25 connecting Colfax Avenue to the Denver Tech Center, officials say.

Since the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the bond issue, which provides for the sale of transportation revenue anticipation notes, must be approved by voters, the dollar amount in question has risen from $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion. Although no portion of these funds is specifically earmarked for transportation projects in Northern Colorado, at least two projects here have been listed among the “Strategic 28” projects…

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