Colorado 145 project resumes

County road superintendent dreams of more state funding

Road construction equipment has rolled into Cortez as resurfacing efforts have resumed along Colorado 145.

The $5.7 million project started outside of Dolores in March, but the work was postponed because of a scheduling conflict with the contractor, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The work resumed July 21.

“The contractor has stated the work is on schedule for completion by Labor Day,” said CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.

Skanska Civil USA West Rocky Mountain District was awarded the project, and the first section of the ongoing resurfacing project is a 1.5-mile section within city limits. The work includes milling the top layer of the existing asphalt surface before paving the section with two layers of asphalt.

CDOT officials expect the work within the city to be completed by Aug. 1. Afterward, crews will pave the 10-mile stretch of Colorado 145 to the Dolores River Bridge.

CDOT officials warn motorists to expect single-lane, alternating traffic, between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and reduced speeds and delays of up to 15 minutes.

Montezuma County Road and Bridge Superintendent Rob Englehart said the project has not impacted county road crews. The county road shop is accessed from Colorado 145.

Initially concerned that the highway resurfacing could impede a County Road 21 chip seal project as well as access to county roads off the highway, Englehart said those worries have been alleviated.

“They’ve done a really good job of making sure traffic keeps flowing,” he said.

County roadways

The county is responsible for maintaining 517 miles of roadways. The 2014 road and bridge fund budget totals $5,075,631.

On the job for the past four months, Englehart said his biggest revelation as the county’s road and bridge superintendent involves “fixing” instead of “building” projects.

“I’m surprised at how tired the existing roads are,” he said. “We handle a lot of traffic that people don’t even think about.”

In regard to the debate in Congress over the nation’s failing roadways and bridges, Englehart said he’d gladly welcome additional funding.

“I believe in doing things,” he said. “Give me the money, and I’d hire more people, buy more equipment and fix more roads.”

On a recent 10-mile chip seal project, Englehart explained a single tanker of oil, for example, costs $17,000. A thick sludge, the oil hardens, helping to hold the rock in place.

“We were spending upwards of $48,000 to $50,000 a day just for oil,” he added. “Not labor, gravel, rock nor diesel fuel, just oil.”

A problem experienced across the nation, Englehart believes some of the county’s oldest infrastructure needs to be refurbished. He specifically cited Road G, a 25-mile winding roadway through McElmo Canyon, which he described as a future “train wreck” financially.

TABOR impacts

The county could potentially receive additional transportation funding pending the outcome of a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Filed by current and former legislators, educators, public officials and private citizens, the lawsuit, Kerr et. al. v. Hickenlooper, argues that TABOR prevents government officials from enacting and managing decisions over taxes and spending. The decision could affect transportation.

“TABOR ushered in stagnation for transportation funding in Colorado, leaving the state unable to keep pace with its rapidly growing transportation needs,” the brief states.

According to facts cited in the lawsuit, Colorado ranks 46th in the nation for highway funding. Based on population, the average state spends nearly $1 billion more on highways than Colorado.

In its conclusion, the brief summarizes the fundamental way that TABOR essentially removed governing from the job description for Colorado legislators.

“TABOR ties the hands of the General Assembly … the General Assembly must divorce its budget decisions from any serious consideration of unmet needs that might warrant additional revenue.”

Approved in 1992, TABOR limits state spending and requires that all tax increases be approved by a vote of the people.

tbaker@cortezjournal.com