Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation
Matching fund pledges by Vail Resorts, Breckenridge and Summit County allowed the Colorado Department of Transportation to fast-track the State Highway 9 Iron Springs realignment, helping close a $1 millon gap in needed funding.
The proposed realignment would cover just over four miles of Highway 9 between Breckenridge and Frisco, moving the road away from Dillon Reservoir and eliminating the tight turn known as “Leslie’s Curve.” However, the future of the project was uncertain when cost estimates jumped from $17.5 million in 2013 to $22.6 million earlier this year. The increase stemmed from higher construction costs and the implementation of additional wetland habitat protection measures.
For the project to be constructed within the next decade and be eligible for CDOT’s RAMP (Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships) program, local partners must match at least 20 percent of the total cost. As it stands now, the Transportation Commission selected the project for competitive RAMP funding, with the project going to bid this fall, groundbreaking scheduled for the summer of 2016 and completion estimated for the summer of 2017.
“The Transportation Commission approved this as a RAMP project as it met their criteria — broad partnership and good local participation “match” and ability to be complete by end of calendar year 2017,” said CDOT project manager Grant Anderson.
The three partners managed to cover 20 percent of the $5 million cost increase, with the county, Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge each pledging $337,000.
“The Iron Springs segment of Highway 9 is the culmination of many years of work by the town, county, Frisco and Vail Resorts, (which) joined together to improve this important corridor, which serves one of the most popular ski resorts in North America,” Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said in a statement.
The county previously pledged to contribute $1.9 million in land, $1.1 in in-kind donations and Vail Pass Recpath maintenance valued at $90,000. The town of Frisco also donated $360,000 worth of land and $90,000 worth of parking and recpath maintenance.
“We’re very excited. It’s a great partnership to be able to have that state investment,” said Julie Sutor, a public information officer with the county. “Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge and the town of Frisco have all been in conversations from the start of this 10 years ago or so. This is one of the chapters of that much larger discussion, that much larger effort.”
The new highway will be broadened from two to four lanes, located further away from the reservoir and restoring the area where the highway is currently located back to the land’s natural grade. The project will also include wildlife crossings and offsite wildlife habitat work to restore the wetlands previously located next to the reservoir.
The recpath will also see significant changes, as it will follow the current highway’s trajectory, curving along the reservoir. While the new recpath is under construction, cyclists and other users will be able to cross beneath the new Highway 9.
Officials hope that the widened, straightened road will reduce accidents between the two towns, removing a bottleneck area for traffic between Farmer’s Korner and the intersection of Highway 9 and Peak One Drive in Frisco. From 2006 to 2011, the Colorado Department of Transportation reported 256 accidents along the four-mile stretch of highway, including one fatal accident in 2010.
“This is one of the last remaining stretches of the Highway 9 corridor that features only one lane in each direction, and traffic can be awful there during weekends and holidays, particularly in snowy weather,” Summit County commissioner Thomas Davidson said in a statement. “Without this additional local match, the opportunity to pursue these improvements could have been pushed out decades into the future, and we would have missed the boat on a $17 million investment of state money into our transportation infrastructure.”