City to drive $80M beltway plan

The Grand Junction City Council agreed to move forward Monday with planning the completion of a beltway to connect the community — a project that likely will present itself to voters on the April ballot.

This $60 million project would include constructing a 29 Road Interchange, connecting 29 Road from Patterson Road to Interstate 70, and widening 24 Road from Patterson to I-70.

“Everyone uses those,” said Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, during a council work session. “We need to get all the way around the community.”

And while council members agreed on the importance of the project for future growth, they voiced concerns about how to present it to taxpayers. About five years ago, voters agreed to use city revenue that exceeded the limits of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, known as TABOR, to pay off the Riverside Parkway loan more quickly, avoiding additional interest charges.

Current projections show that enough funds to pay off the debt on the $110 million Riverside Parkway could be accumulated as early as 2015. So, to continue using the funds, and not result in a refund situation, the city needs to go back to the voters.

The key to the question is that it would reallocate resources, but it’s not a new tax, said City Manager Rich Englehart.

Council members said it is a tough voter climate with unemployment rates and personal budget cuts. However, they also said it makes more sense to tackle the project now while costs are lower and before the override expires.

Transportation infrastructure is crucial to business, said Councilor Teresa Coons.

The deadline to pose the question to voters is early February. City officials will start to pull together further data, such as predicted jobs created and economic impact, to take to the community for feedback.

Various other projects totaling an estimated $90 million are also on the transportation planning radar, but councilors focused on the beltway, saying that while the other projects affect groups of people, this affects everyone.


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