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Paving, gravel work approved

Two roads in the Pagosa Lakes area — Aspenglow Boulevard and Handicap Avenue — will be reconstructed and paved next spring, following commissioner action Tuesday.

Work on the two roads is part of the county’s 2010 road capital improvement plan which aims to put $4 million towards reconstruction of some of the worst roads in Archuleta County.

Although the plan’s original thrust was to embark on an ambitious $4 million paving program, the commissioners moved instead to tackle Aspenglow and Handicap, in addition to graveling 15 miles of county roads during the spring and summer of 2010. They’ll also explore costs for improving sections of Piedra and Light Plant roads.

Archuleta County Commissioner Clifford Lucero said, based on citizen comments at the Sept. 10 road forum, that gravel operations would do much to alleviate many citizens’ road woes, hence the decision to incorporate gravel operations into the 2010 plan.

Commissioner Bob Moomaw said he had hoped to gravel 30 to 40 miles of county roads next spring and summer, although public works director Ken Feyen responded that county equipment and manpower would be stretched to the limit at 15 miles.

According to Feyen’s estimates, work on Aspenglow may cost $1.45 million, while repaving Handicap could cost about $843,150.

Feyen said outsourcing gravel operations could cost the county as much as $80,000 per mile, although in-house work would come in at about $30,000 — or $450,000 for the 15 miles.

That said, the commissioners’ action Tuesday ate up about $2.75 million, leaving about $1.25 million for other road capital improvements. However, instead of spending those dollars, the commissioners said they may be able to leverage the money toward a federal grant that would pay for the reconstruction of Piedra Road.

Although the future of federal funding for Piedra Road is uncertain and the timetable less than predictable — some estimates say 2011, 2012, or perhaps 2016 — Archuleta County staff and elected officials have said the road is one of their top concerns. Nevertheless, the project will be expensive.

Based on Feyen’s numbers, repairing, improving and reconstructing Piedra Road from U.S. 160 to the Forest Service cattleguard could cost $6.4 millon or more — a figure that would easily outstrip the county’s ability to undertake other road capital improvement projects. Thus, federal funding is critical.

The commissioners’ selection of Aspenglow and Handicap came from a six-road recommendation list put forth by the Roads Advisory Task Force.

The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners formed the task force in July 2009 to work with county management, road and bridge staff and elected officials to develop a five-year road capital improvement plan.

In addition to helping create the five-year plan, the move to institute a road task force, county staff has said, may help rally public support and input, not only for its road plan, but for the longer-term goal of successfully passing a $12 million ballot question in November 2010. The dollars would be used to fund road capital improvement projects into 2011 and beyond.

The first step toward a successful ballot question came May 5 when the Board of County Commissioners approved a $5 million loan with Wells Fargo, the proceeds of which — roughly $4 million — have been used to repave Park Avenue and to tackle a number of other road projects this summer and those slated for 2010.

Given that projects identified for 2010 are successfully completed, the commissioners may push for a ballot question that would provide early payback for the Wells Fargo loan and funding for road improvements in 2011 and beyond.

According to Archuleta County Administrator Greg Schulte, the five-year road plan should be ready for board adoption by October.

J.R. Ford provided the only public comment during the discussion, and urged the commissioners to spread the road dollars “more evenly throughout the county” instead of on interior subdivision roads such as Aspenglow and Handicap.

Task Force member Brett Locke said a number of factors were used to decide on the roads named to the six-road list, among them: basic engineering criteria, economic development impact and equitable distribution of road dollars.

The task force’s report regarding the road selection process can be viewed at www.archuletacounty.org.

james@pagosasun.com