29 Road project won’t get federal grant money

Two western Colorado communities’ bids for federal stimulus grants to help pay for road construction projects were rejected Wednesday, a setback that also will affect at least one other city in the region.

Mesa County and the city of Grand Junction applied for $20 million for the 29 Road viaduct, while the town of Parachute applied for $16 million to build a new interchange on Interstate 70 and a downtown bypass.

Neither project was included in the $1.5 billion in grants announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program. The only initiative in Colorado to receive funding was a project to extend high-occupancy lanes on U.S. Highway 36 between Denver and Boulder. That project garnered $10 million.

Grand Junction Mayor Bruce Hill said the news was disappointing, but he is proud the city and county worked together on a funding application that made it onto the final list of five state projects that was forwarded to the Department of Transportation. Construction will proceed even without the grant.

“It’s a key project in our community,” Hill said. “We’ll persevere.”

The 29 Road viaduct will cross the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and connect with the Interstate 70 Business Loop. The project, which marks another step toward linking U.S. Highway 50 with Interstate 70 via 29 Road, will be put out to bid next month, city officials said.

The no-funding announcement represents a double-whammy for Parachute, which missed out on the federal money and won’t have a chance to supplement funding it received from the state.

Mesa County and Grand Junction officials had said if they received federal stimulus money, they would return to the state the $3.2 million energy-impact grant awarded to the 29 Road project earlier this month. Without federal dollars, however, the city and county will keep the allocation from the state.

Parachute received the most state energy-impact dollars of any project — $8 million — to go toward the construction of a new I-70 interchange and a truck bypass. But Town Administrator Robert Knight said another $2 million is needed to begin work on the interchange, and with the town, Garfield County and energy companies “all-in” in terms of the funding they can provide, Parachute could have used some or all of the money that Mesa County and Grand Junction would have returned.

“I certainly hope that this largest award that (the state Department of Local Affairs) has made doesn’t become one of their largest disappointments by not getting it built,” Knight said. “We’ll just continue to press for whatever resources we can.”

The city of Delta also had its eye on the money that Mesa County and Grand Junction would have sent back. Delta applied to the state for $13.8 million and received $2.8 million for its $26 million U.S. Highway 50 bypass project. “Another $1 million or $2 million would have really helped us,” acting City Manager Glen Black said. “We were really rooting for (Mesa County and Grand Junction to receive federal stimulus dollars).”

Black said the bypass project will move ahead but be scaled back.


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