As Colorado limits spending on highways, local governments pitch in to achieve transportation goals. How has Larimer County completed projects on its limited budget?

As Colorado tightens spending on roads and bridges, Larimer County is seeing its share of improvements to its transportation infrastructure.

Commissioner Tom Donnelly highlighted the progress in a recent guest column in the Coloradoan newspaper. The article promotes quality-of-life achievements but is also a seeming response to tragic safety problems in Larimer and across Colorado.

Responding to Growth While Adding Options

Donnelly said:

“As our region grows, we’re working on traffic congestion, but we’re also leading the way with other modes of transportation. We know citizens expect other choices in transportation for a number of reasons: recreation, health benefits, less dependence on motorized vehicles, and quality of life.”

He cited the recent addition of sidewalks and bike lanes to a 1,000 foot stretch of U.S. 287 in Fort Collins. The project site is between two other highway projects: improvements financed by Fort Collins on North College Avenue, and improvements financed by the state on Colorado Highway 1. The city, county, and state pooled their resources to fill the gap, resulting in a continuous safe road and pathway for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Tragedies Motivate Changes

Forty-one people died from auto accidents in Larimer in 2016, the sixth-most of all Colorado counties, according to statistics published by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The number closely tracks the county’s relative population ranking: sixth-largest, with an estimated 339,993 residents.

As of July 3, 2017, another 17 had people died from crashes in Larimer. The numbers, however grim, correlate with the county’s population ranking. At least 608 people — drivers, passengers, and pedestrians — died from auto accidents in Colorado in 2016. Add to them another 265 so far in 2017.

Budget Austerity, Lofty Goal

It may seem ironic that CDOT and Gov. John Hickenlooper have made it a goal to improve conditions on state roads so that one year there will be zero fatalities. This year, the Legislature allocated $1.8 billion, about one-tenth of what CDOT Executive Director Shailen P. Bhatt said the agency needs for repairs and new construction to accommodate the state’s growing population.

Cooperation Makes Progress Possible

Donnelly, though, when discussing roads projects, emphasizes how agencies and officials are capitalizing on a spirit of cooperation to offset their financial restraints. Larimer County, Donnelly said, received grants to complete a 2-mile length of the Front Range Trail from Carpenter Road and County Road 30. When completed, the project will connect Fort Collins and Loveland. The grant money financed only about 60 percent of the project’s cost. The project is moving forward, however, because, Fort Collins, the county, and CDOT are again pooling resources to build it.

“In Northern Colorado, we’re able to work together to accomplish things for the benefit of everyone, because we’re all neighbors,” Donnelly said. “That’s a part of what makes Northern Colorado a great place to live.”

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