Road projects soon may get a green light

Some major local transportation projects, including the proposed 29 Road interchange with Interstate 70 and a new double roundabout along Horizon Drive, could happen sooner rather than later, as officials last week finalized a list of projects they plan to submit to a new statewide transportation funding program.

Last year, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation, announced the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program, a new method of identifying key statewide projects that does not require funding to be “in the bank,” as is traditionally the case.

Officials with the Grand Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization decided on three projects to submit to RAMP’s Pre-application Projects List — the 29 Road interchange, the Horizon Drive interchange and a signal for the new U.S. Highway 50-Hookless Boulevard intersection in the Whitewater area. The projects are prioritized in that order.

Dave Eller, director of CDOT’s Region 3, told officials the pre-application process is intended to identify projects that have statewide significance. The projects will then move to an initial round of screening.

“It looks like, in my opinion, all of these would be received well,” Eller said.

By far, the biggest of the projects is the 29 Road interchange, estimated to cost $40 million. In addition to construction of a new connection between 29 Road and I-70, the project also covers about 1,500 feet south of the highway and 1,000 feet to the north.

The existing bridge at 29 Road and the interstate, which does not provide any access to the highway, is a 20-foot wide, two-lane road built in 1964, according to Pete Baier, public works director of Mesa County.

RAMP projects require a local match of at least 20 percent, and both Mesa County and the city of Grand Junction have committed $10 million each to the potential project.

The Horizon Drive interchange is planned to dramatically alter the way traffic flows in the key area of Horizon Drive and I-70. Plans call for taking out the three traffic signals and replacing them with two roundabouts — one on each side of the interstate.

A tight squeeze on the southeast side of the interchange — where Taco Bell, the Super 8, and the Grand Junction Visitors Center are located — will require a realignment of Visitor’s Way to access Horizon Drive on the other side of Taco Bell.

New pedestrian access, new crosswalks and medians and additional “slip” lanes for vehicles wanting to solely access I-70 or exit to the airport are expected to ease traffic and increase safety as well.

“This is the main entry point in and out of the majority of Grand Junction. Seventy percent of the hotel rooms in the valley are right here,” said city Engineering Manager Trent Prall. “This will make a good first and last impression.”

The third project on the list would add a new signal in the Whitewater area that allows vehicles to turn onto the highway without stopping the northbound flow of traffic.

Todd Hollenbeck, director of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the RAMP program hopefully will accelerate projects that are already identified in their pipeline and allow other projects to move up in priority as a result.

About the big 29 Road project, Hollenbeck said, “For a project like that to get done through our normal process, that becomes very difficult — just simply because of the amount of money.”

“If we were doing it under traditional methods, it would take years for it to happen, for us to accumulate the funds. This is an opportunity to accelerate that and move it up on the list,” he said.

In announcing the RAMP program in 2012, the governor’s office predicted the new method will allow CDOT to use an additional $300 million per year over five years for projects across the state.



COMMENTS

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Although I’m slowly getting used to round-abouts, I’m still worried about the people I see assuming they have the right-of-way when entering. I was almost hit twice last week by people entering the round-about without slowing or looking at anything other than their cell phone.

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