OURAY – Commuters who travel between Montrose and Telluride could get a shortcut if Ouray County gets over $15 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant funds to pave and improve County Road 1 between Colona and State Highway 62.
The Ouray Board of County Commissioners on Monday authorized the electronic submission for the TIGER grant application. As proposed in the application, the grant money would go toward highway paving, widening and drainage improvements to the roadway. This includes the removal of existing chip seal and the placement of five-feet thick asphalt. It also includes the improvement of a “poorly aligned” intersection at CR 24D and Highway 62. The total amount of funding requested for the project is $15,952,175, short of the $20 million minimum TIGER grant requirement. Because Ouray County considers itself an economically distressed rural area, they are requesting a waiver of the $20 million minimum, and they are requesting 100 percent funding through the grant program.
According to the application, the proposed project will enhance user mobility through the creation of a more convenient, shorter and safer option than U.S. Highway 550, which travels through downtown Ridgway. CR 1 would provide an alternate route between the east side Dallas Divide and Colona, bypassing Ridgway, which is two miles (or 13 percent) shorter than the current main thoroughfare.
Moreover, according to application, having a safe and alternate route for commuters is “essential to the region.” Grant funds would also promote economic development and create local contracting jobs, while opening the door to new residential development along the road corridor.
“Contractors, developers and interested homeowners will be able to work and reside in an area that has an improved surface, improved environmental component, improved maintenance and enhanced safety,” the BOCC-approved application states.
While the commissioners at Monday’s meeting showed excitement at the notion of Ouray County receiving close to $16 million in grant money, they also emphasized that the public will be given time to comment on the proposed project.
Commissioner Keith Meinert said, “I am sure there is a concern, and there will be even more concerns about this in the public, that it has gone as far as it has without a whole lot of public process, and that is because of the timing. Staff has had to jump through hoops to meet the deadline on grants. It is a tremendous opportunity for the county and we don’t want to miss it. We have said we will hold a public forum on this and I definitely want to commit to doing that. We are going to have a public process.”
Meinert continued by saying even if the county was “lucky enough” to be awarded the grant money, if it is subsequently determined the project is not warranted, “we can turn the grant back.
“We are not making a commitment today by applying for the grant,” he said.
Commissioner Heidi Albritton agreed. “We are just trying to get our foot in the door and we will have some open and candid conversations about this,” she said.
More information on the proposed project can be found at www.ouraycountyco.gov/CR1TIGER.html.