From Darkness To Light

9 Feb 2011

City and County agree to fund design of Wilson Gulch Rd.

Posted by Adam Howell

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In the name of facilitating economic growth in Grandview, city and county officials have agreed to fund the design of a Wilson Gulch Road that could provide quicker access for those traveling to the Three Springs sub-division.

Utilizing the recently constructed overpasses on US 160—the Bridge to Nowhere and its counterpart directly to the west—the Wilson Gulch Road would run from the planned roundabout north of the Bridge to Nowhere to the top of the Gulch near Mercy Medical Center.  At that point it would connect with the dead end of the pre-existing Wilson Gulch Rd.

Officials say it would allow those traveling east from Durango—including ambulances—to get into Three Springs more quickly than previously where they had to risk waiting at a stop light at Three Springs Boulevard.

The Bridge To Nowhere is in the foreground, and it’s counterpart for the interchange is right behind it. Both overpasses would connect traffic to the proposed Wilson Gulch Rd. leading into Three Springs.

Numerous officials at the joint study session Tuesday expressed interest in attracting big box retailers to the Three Springs area as a means of boosting the City’s sales tax revenue. Additionally, the officials noted how the proposed road would help provide access to a proposed events center at the site of the current C & J Gravel Pit.

“We definitely recognize how much of a jam our downtown is and the special retail that exists there, so this is not to compete with our downtown area,” said Mayor Pro Tem Christina Thompson. “We have defined metrics that we’ve been analyzing to see how much of our retail is going to Farmington and Albuquerque. What we’re trying to do is recapture some of that here in Durango. Because that’s where our city budget comes from—from our sales tax revenue. So it’s really important to pay attention to what leakage is happening and how we can help prevent that.”

Under the joint intergovernmental agreement, the county would match the city’s previously budgeted $250,000 to fund the design of the new road.

“I am in utter shock that a two-mile stretch of road costs a half a million dollars to design, and that doesn’t even include the final construction documents,” said County Commissioner Bobby Lieb.

“I’m hoping that this is our bait on a hook to provide revenues for both the city and the county and the benefits from future retail growth as well,” said Lieb, “With that, I strongly encourage the county to move forward and enter in the joint IGA with the city and design this road.”

Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc said the Wilson Gulch Rd. would not even be discussed if it wasn’t for CDOT’s Regional Transportation Director Richard Reynolds having gotten the grants for the US 160/Hwy 550 Grandview Interchange.

“There’s been a lot of public debate about the investment,” Le Blanc said. “And that is the bridge to the future. We have a centroid of population that’s going to move east in the county, and that’ll become the center of commerce.”

While many in Durango, including this blogger, will continue to question and doubt whether Grandview will indeed be the economic hub of La Plata County in the future, Reynolds assured City Councilor Paul Broderick that the Bridge to Nowhere has independent utility.

“It does service other properties in this whole area,” said Reynolds, while pointing to the homes on a map on the south side of US 160 in Grandview.

Bridge to Nowhere

In response to the Broderick’s question regarding the different phases of construction for the interchange, Reynolds explained that it went into the phases because they didn’t have the funding all at once. “The State’s funding is so sporadic,” said Reynolds, “that when I get money and I have an opportunity for money I get it and try to do something with it. Because the next year, I don’t have it.”

After Broderick asked if CDOT had a “plan to nowhere” regarding the completion of its Grandview Interchange, Reynolds mentioned that the roundabout for the project was going to be completed at latest by this fall, thus making it operational.

“I was kind of hoping that what you were going to do is tell me that you were going to be building this, not just planning to build it,” Reynolds said about the proposed extension of Wilson Gulch Rd. “Because we’re going to be done with it (interchange) this summer.”

In response, Broderick said that the City doesn’t have any money to build the Wilson Gulch Rd.

Saying that he hears the same reasoning for stagnant development all over, Reynolds mentioned what else CDOT has planned in addition to the Bridge to Nowhere.

“This is really the first of three of these that have to occur,” said Reynolds. ” At some point in the future, there has to be another one at Three Springs. And there has to be another one at 172. And if you think about that it’s really just getting rid of the traffic signals so you don’t have to stop. Whether you’re going through on 160 or you’re getting off at Three Springs Boulevard. That’s what really kills us at the heart of the traffic problems.”

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