The Highway 9 Safety Project is Approved!
“Lives will be saved. Thank you to everyone who made this happen.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has selected State Highway 9 for RAMP funding to fast track safety improvements to the highway.
CDOT’s selection of SH9 for RAMP funding is the successful conclusion of an effort to raise more than $9-million in matching funds in a few short weeks to qualify for RAMP consideration. That money came from contributions made by Grand and Summit counties, the towns of Kremmling and Silverthorne and businesses and private individuals who believed deeply in making SH9 safer.
Grand County Commissioners decided on April 9, 2013 to submit a RAMP Application for safety improvements on Highway 9. CDOT began accepting RAMP applications on May 1. RAMP, or Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships, was created by CDOT to fast track important road improvement projects in the state. To qualify for consideration under RAMP, local governments were required to raise 20% of the total cost of a project and submit an application that explained why the project should be put on a fast track for completion.
The total cost to make vital safety improvements to SH9 is estimated to be nearly $46 million. That meant that Grand County had to raise $9.2 million, or 20% of that $46 million, to qualify for RAMP consideration.
The Citizens for a Safe Highway 9 Committee was formed to begin the effort to raise the money needed to qualify SH9 for RAMP. Led by longtime Grand County resident, Mike Ritschard, the Committee successfully raised in pledges the funding necessary to meet the July 1 deadline set by CDOT.
SH 9 is a major route between Kremmling and Silverthorne in Summit and Grand counties. The narrow stretch of highway between mile markers 126 and 137, near the Green Mountain Dam Road and Colorado River Crossing, has long been the site of collisions between motorists and wildlife. SH9 is heavily used by school buses and by visitors traveling to recreation destinations in Summit, Grand, Routt and other counties in northwest Colorado. The two-lane highway is frequently congested with heavy traffic, which creates an even higher risk of collision between vehicles and wildlife, particularly at night.
The highway in this part of the Lower Blue River Valley runs through a winter migration path for wildlife, separating prime winter range on the east side of the highway from their only winter water source in the Blue River on the west side of the highway. This daily migration puts wildlife in the path of the cars and trucks on that stretch of road.
The project will improve this 10.6-mile stretch of the highway with overpasses and underpasses designed to allow deer and elk to travel safely from one side of the highway to the other. Fencing will prevent deer and elk from moving across the road and guide them to safe passage over and under the highway. Additionally, the project will include constructing eight-foot-wide paved shoulders that would accommodate bike paths.
Broad community support and an inventive, multipurpose engineering design were the qualities that allowed the SH 9 safety plan to win CDOT RAMP approval according to Kathy Connell who is a member of the Transportation Commission representing the Northwest Region of Colorado.
The effort to make SH 9 safer dates back to March of 2011, when Blue Valley Ranch made a donation of $805,000 to help Grand County and CDOT fund the planning and design engineering for safety and roadway improvements to the highway. That unprecedented public-private partnership between Grand County, CDOT and Blue Valley Ranch resulted in a shovel ready project that could be built as soon as funding could be found. It took two years, until the spring of 2013, but RAMP provided the funding answer.
In addition to the donation of $805,000 that led to the creation of a shovel ready plan to enhance safety on SH 9, Blue Valley Ranch also offered right of way along SH 9 worth $140,000. When the opportunity to apply for RAMP funding occurred, the ranch stepped forward again with a pledge of $4-million if the remaining $4.3-million could be raised to reach the $9.2-million necessary to qualify for RAMP consideration.
Ultimately, the remaining $4.3 million balance was raised from local governments and private sources in an impressive show of support from across Colorado and beyond. Pledges ranged from $25 to $100,000 demonstrating that even private citizens felt strongly enough about the project to give whatever they could. Grand County provided the final ingredient, pledging nearly $3.1 million last June.
Sky Hi Daily News – Oct. 18, 2013 (pdf)