Letter: CDOT priorities don’t seem to make sense

How ironic! Rio Blanco was recently denied $9 million of impact funds for improvements to County Road 5, the Piceance Creek road that is the only all-weather public road providing access to two major natural gas refineries and the dozens of gas wells in the Piceance Basin. The last time this road had any major improvement was about 30 years ago when it was resurfaced using impact funds during oil shale development. It remains today a narrow, crooked, dangerous road used by large trucks, heavy equipment, and workers commuting to Rifle, Meeker and Rangely. No other county road has suffered the impact of energy development as much as County Road 5.
Here is the irony: CDOT recently awarded an $8.8 million contract for building four roundabouts in the Edwards area paid for from “stimulus” (our) money. Two of these roundabouts are at county road connections, two at the Edwards interchange with I-70. All the roundabouts will accomplish will make it slightly more convenient to clear intersections. Public safety is not an issue. The truly dangerous intersection of County Road 5 and State Highway 13 at Rio Blanco is ignored.
How can priorities be so screwed up? Back when highways in Colorado were the responsibility of the State Highway Department, highway commissioners would hold public meetings around the state where delegates from cities, counties and organizations like Club 20 would plead for projects in their area. Then district engineers would recommend projects supporting, in some cases those requests, but keeping the big picture of district-wide needs in mind. Then came along the Department of Transportation and more political correct thinking. Locals were to be given a stronger voice in selection of improvements.
When I questioned the reason for funding roundabouts at Edwards last year, I was told that locals in Eagle had put this project as their No. 1 priority and, therefore, deserved the funding. CDOT is locked into a “process” that ignores actual needs. Until that system is changed, we can expect more misuse of our money. The Colorado Department of Transportation needs to restore authority for choosing projects to regional directors and Denver staff with consideration of local requests, but keeping in mind the “big picture” of regional needs.
Dick Prosence,
retired district engineer