Critical road projects in tax mix

A crowded road is seen on Patterson Road, from First Street looking west. The widening of 24 Road would enable the creation of the F 1/2 Road Parkway, a needed artery the city says to reduce the congestion of traffic along Patterson Road.

It's been a long-range plan of Grand Junction City Council members to build a beltway — a connection of large-volume traffic corridors encircling the city.

The effort began in earnest with the Riverside Parkway project, brought online in 2006.

But something in the beltway plan is lacking.

"If we're ever going to truly have a beltway around the city, we have to complete the bookends, so to speak," Councilor Rick Taggart said at a recent council meeting.

Without the bookends — an interchange at 29 Road and Interstate 70, and one at Riverside Parkway and 24 Road — "we should never refer to it as a beltway," Taggart said.

Those road expansion projects are top priorities in a list developed by the city in advance of asking for a 0.25 sales tax increase for roads on the upcoming April ballot.

Other major projects in the city's sights are a widening of 24 Road, which would create the F 1/2 Road Parkway, and widening 25 Road.

The city project list totals about $184 million, but the tax is meant to address just a portion of that amount.

"Anyone that's traveled Patterson Road lately and the 24 Road corridor as you get close to G Road can definitely appreciate that things are changing around the valley," said City Public Works Director Trent Prall, at a forum last month.

"While we did invest heavily 10 years ago in the Riverside Parkway project — that certainly helped, along with CDOT's capacity additions on I-70B — there are still other elements in our community that are struggling from a capacity standpoint," Prall said.

The I-70 and 29 Road interchange — estimated at $60 million — would involve widening 29 Road from two to four lanes north of Patterson Road, and also from three to five lanes between North Avenue and Patterson. The project includes multimodal pedestrian and bicycle access.

On the west edge of the Grand Junction Loop, 24 Road is set to be widened into a five-lane parkway with streetlights and bike lanes, at a cost of $10 million.

The widening of 24 Road would enable the creation of the F 1/2 Road Parkway, a needed artery the city says reduce to the congestion of traffic along Patterson Road, especially near Mesa Mall. F 1/2 Road would be built out to four lanes with shared-use paths on both sides, with a price tag of $10 million.

Also in the plans is a widening of 25 Road, which would be key to connecting the F 1/2 Parkway and the Interstate 70 Business Loop. That part would cost $8 million.

The ideal western "bookend" — the Riverside Parkway and 24 Road interchange — is more complicated because it involves a rail line, and is estimated at $20 million.

When it comes to roads, the city is playing catch-up with all of the growth happening in the north part of the city. Money from the tax boost would also go toward making needed neighborhood improvements, like curbs, gutters and sidewalks in those areas.

"Many of our streets, based on the policies of the past that have been in place, haven't been improved north of Patterson," Prall said.

"If you want to go for a walk, you can do so around your subdivision, or if you want to go for a bike ride, you have to compete with the same amount of asphalt as the cars," he said.

In 2017, city voters extended the Riverside Parkway debt three more years, to free up funds to make needed repairs to streets, but the April question is distinctly different in that it will specifically address road expansion needs.

"(The TABOR) money has been used strictly on getting our streets to where they should be. But this is about expansion," Councilor Phyllis Norris said during a recent council meeting in which the ballot measures were adopted.

"This allows us to take care and expand our road system where we really need expansion today," Norris said.

"Every time we have somebody come (before council), they are complaining that the roads … are not sufficient to bring everyone into the city," she said.

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