$3.2 million state grant to help pay for overpass on 29 Road

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca walks Monday on 29 Road south of the railroad tracks, where a new overpass will be built. Cost of the project is $20 million.

A $3.2 million grant from the state to Mesa County will go immediately to work on an overpass crossing the railroad.

An $8 million grant made from the same pot of money to Parachute, also for an overpass, will sit while town officials try to find about $2 million more before they can start their project.

The grants were drawn from $17 million set aside last year by the Legislature for communities affected by energy and mineral production.

The 29 Road overpass, which will extend the road across the rail yard, marks a step toward connecting U.S. Highway 50 with Interstate 70 via 29 Road.

The $20 million project cost is being shared equally by Mesa County and Grand Junction, and each will see its cost for the project reduced by $1.6 million, Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

The county also is seeking federal stimulus money for the project, and if it obtains the money it’s seeking, the state money will be returned to the Department of Local Affairs, which distributed the grant, Commissioner Craig Meis said.

The grant could be one of the last of its kind, Acquafresca said.

“Energy-impact funds are drying up, given the state’s raid on that fund,” Acquafresca said. “These are some of the last dollars to be distributed around the state.”

Acquafresca and other county officials got help when officials from the Department of Local Affairs visited Grand Junction, he said. Traffic was held up by a fully loaded coal train, “and that illustrated the nexus between energy extraction and the its impact on the transportation system,” Acquafresca said.

With the award, the city and county will be able to break ground on the project in six weeks, Acquafresca said.

“Our project was the most shovel-ready and I’m sure that played a role” in the funding decision, Acquafresca said.

Parachute officials would like to move forward, but the grant fell short of providing enough money for the job, Town Manager Robert Knight said.

“Although we are pleased to have been awarded the $8 million, it will do nothing to build a bypass and it’s $2 million short of what we need to build the overpass,” Knight said. “The economic revival of Parachute will be on hold unless this $2 million can be found.”

Parachute can hold onto the money for four years, but construction costs also could increase during that time, Knight said.

Garfield County already has committed $2.5 million to the project and Parachute $500,000. Williams Cos. and EnCana have committed $300,000 each to it.

In addition to the 29 Road and Parachute projects, the Department of Local Affairs awarded $2.8 million to the city of Delta for a U.S. Highway 50 bypass and $3 million to the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments for regional telecommunications.


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