The start of traffic and safety studies on a future highway interchange isn’t the most eye-catching story, but when 29 Road is finally connected to Interstate 70, the positive impact on the community will be immense.

On Monday, the Mesa County Board of Commissioners approved spending $1.2 million to continue the NEPA/1601 process, which calls for updated traffic and safety studies to be done, according to reporting from The Sentinel’s Charles Ashby. The total cost for the studies will be $2.4 million, with the city picking up the other half.

Last year, the city and county completed the 29 Road Interchange at I-70 Planning & Environmental Linkages Study, which has been approved by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The new studies are the next step that needs to be completed before the project can seek funding and then begin.

This has been an ongoing partnership between the city and county. Time and time again we see big projects come to fruition when there is cooperation and partnership between different organizations. In this instance the partnership will hopefully finally yield this needed improvement to the area’s road infrastructure.

The planning study noted the valley’s existing transportation network without another north-south corridor, like 29 Road, to the interstate, limits future economic development. By connecting 29 Road to the highway, it would add another potential truck route into the city, which would help businesses as well.

It also would be a major development for the Grand Junction Regional Airport, which would eventually have a road connection from the new interchange. Giving people another option to get in and out of the airport would limit congestion on Horizon Drive, as the airport continues to grow.

The plan would not only include a new I-70 exit, but also several intersection improvements along 29 Road as far south as Patterson Road, and a new northern link to 30 Road to the new interchange. As Grand Junction Mayor Chuck McDaniel noted in a press release on the NEPA/1601 process, that would benefit the entire community.

“Maintaining a well-planned transportation network is important to residents and our local economy,” McDaniel said. “Projects like these add capacity to our network and improve the ways we move within the city.”

Outside the economic development and business benefits, the improved capacity would make it easier for residents and visitors to get to outdoor recreation opportunities with improved access to Bureau of Land Management land on the valley’s north end or future new facilities at Matchett Park south of I-70 near 29 Road. It will also make those roads safer for pedestrians and bikes with multimodal facilities and connections.

While all of this will be great for the community, it should be noted that this project is far from “shovel ready.” As the city’s press release noted, this next step in the process will take around three years to complete. Funding hasn’t been identified yet and the interchange alone is estimated to cost $10 million.

It’s good that the city and county are pushing forward on this much-needed piece of infrastructure, but it’s also a reminder of how much time and money it takes just to get a project ready to go.