Engineering a road to the future

RBC I After questioning who actually has ownership of the existing Ute Road, the Meeker School District — with the town of Meeker as a co-applicant — is seeking a revised $925,000 energy impact grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to build a new road leading to the site of the new elementary school.
phrbccountyschoolroad15The total cost of the road project is $1,575,617, with the bulk of that coming — officials hope — from the DOLA grant, but includes monies from the town ($100,000), a County Capital Improvement Trust Fund request ($150,617), and the school district is chipping in $400,000 for a box culvert.
Officials had initially figured it would take $797,361 to enhance and extend the existing Ute Road, which runs by the Meeker Recreation Center, and install a new box culvert, but a traffic study showed there could be problems with that plan.
“What we found out from the traffic engineer is the road won’t work very well, because of there being three intersections right there close together, which will be a problem,” said Sharon Day, town administrator, during a work session June 15 with county commissioners.
The new road will include two 12-foot-wide driving lanes and an 8-foot-wide eastbound parking lane.
“Some of the reasons the cost went up, (the new plan) takes into account substantial differences on Sulphur Creek Road, including lighting and a roundabout and landscaping, and sidewalks and trails on both sides of the (new) street, and the pullout parking lane, so people can stop when they are picking up children and traffic can still flow through,” Day said. “We’ll be relocating the rec district driveway farther east, so the cost of relocating their driveway is also included in that (new plan) as well as the intersection for the fairgrounds.”
Under the revised plan, the existing Ute Road would be blocked off from entrance off of Sulphur Creek Road, and a new road would be built south of the existing road, funneling traffic in to the new elementary school, and still providing access to the county fairgrounds and the recreation center.
“This road will be a really nice gateway to the three activity centers: the fairgrounds, the school and the rec district. I do think this road will be really important to this community,” Day said. “The old road will no longer be intersecting with Sulphur Creek. I assume (the new road) will use the same name, but (the existing road) will no longer be a public street. It will dead end at that point. You will no longer be able to access Sulphur Creek from that road.”
After considering installing a traffic light at the new location, it was determined a roundabout would be better suited for the intersection of the new road and Sulphur Creek.
“One of the things the roundabout will do is calm the traffic as it comes down Sulphur Creek,” Day said. “(The traffic study) showed there was enough traffic to warrant either a signal and turning lanes, or a roundabout. A roundabout is much more economical. (A roundabout) costs less than putting in two more lanes to construct and maintain, and the signalization. Signalization is very expensive to purchase and maintain.”
Asked what he thought of the new road, Scott Pierson, recreation district director, said, “We’re not going to have a straight access anymore. I think for the good of the community, a new road is probably the way to go. But as far as an access simply for our building, it’s probably not (the best plan). I would have preferred to keep Ute Road open from Sulphur Creek. But we can make it work, don’t get me wrong. We want what’s best for the community at large.”
The current Ute Road is located on recreation district property. The new road would be on county property.
“It will be entirely on county property, and the county is being asked to deed the land to town, because the town will accept it as a public street and be responsible for maintenance costs in the future,” Day said.
There was confusion over which entity actually owned the existing Ute Road, which was maintained by the county.
“I really don’t know the answer there,” Day said. “I’m not sure who put asphalt down when the rec district built their facility. The town has never maintained that road in the past.
“I think there were a lot of things that came up after they (the school district) started this project,” Day said. “One, I think everyone thought it was a county road, which it turned out not to be. I understand there may be a lot of reasons why we may be where we are today … but the reason the town is involved is because it will be a public street, after it’s all said and done. In the end, the town will be accepting the street. It will be a public street, owned and maintained by the town.”
The county will be asked to donate the land for the new road, prompting Commissioner Joe Collins to ask if the value of the land could be considered a cash match.
“It can be an in-kind match, but it can’t be a dollar match,” Day said.
“Does the land have value?” Collins asked.
“It probably does, but what they (DOLA) said is they don’t usually take that as a cash match,” Day said. “I don’t think they said it didn’t have value. They just said they normally don’t look at that as a cash value.”
In talking about the CCITF request of $150,617, Collins said money is tight, because of the economy and other community needs.
“That’s a pretty significant bite out of that $500,000 we’re going to have to agonize over,” Collins said. “If the town is willing to say, yes, we won’t come in with anything. The rec district is willing to say we won’t come in with anything, and other entities in town that this thing is going to help … all of this helps us make a decision. I think you need to talk to the school district also, because this whole thing funnels into their building.”
“The town agreed to forego asking for CCITF funding for this year,” Day said. “They won’t apply for this year, other than this, to try to get the energy impact grant (for the road project).”
If the funding comes through, Day said the road project would go to bid in January or February, and construction would begin in March, depending on the weather, with completion in April. The new school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010.
“The big thing driving this road to be completed is so they can have all of their summer activities (at the fairgrounds),” Day said.
While the road project has taken different turns, Day thanked the different groups and individuals who have been a part of the collaborative effort.
“I really have to give high kudos to Scott (Pierson) and Dave Morlan (county road and bridge director) and all the people who have worked really hard to get this far along in this short of time,” Day said.
Pierson returned the compliment.
“The town is taking the lead on this,” he said. “Sharon has done a marvelous job, actually.”