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Part of Cimarron/I-25 budget 'like jello'

But CDOT and city official express confidence funding will be there

       The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) sent out an updated press release Feb. 13 touting its planned I- 25/Cimarron interchange.
       Titled “CDOT moves ahead with critical interchange design-build project,” the release appeared a day after a CDOT official told a regional board of elected officials that about $18.5 million of the pledged construction funds- more than a fifth of the actual project budget - are not certain.
       “We ask you to be a little bit patient… to make this project whole,” said CDOT Region 2 Transportation Director Tom Wrona, expressing confidence that one way or another the work won't get stalled. But he did not rule out seeking more money from local governments. The city is contributing $5 million and El Paso County $1 million. The rest of the funding is coming from federal and state sources.
       Wrona answered questions at a meeting of the board of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG).
       At one point, PPACG Director Rob MacDonald compared the solidity of the $18.5 million figure - which would come from CDOT's Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program - to “jello tied to a tree.” The staff head was not trying to be confrontational, however, and suggested that the difference could be made up by taking money from lower-priority projects on the region's Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
       As a gateway to the downtown, the Westside and the mountains, the Cimarron interchange is the region's highest ranked transportation project. Its overall budget, including money already spent on design and easements, is $95 million. CDOT officials have set public goals of beginning construction by 2015 and finishing by July 2017.
       The current interchange was built in 1959; the new one will improve ramps and roadway, while enhancing trail connections, water quality and aesthetics, the press release states.
       The funding concern, as Wrona summed it up, is that the $18.5 million portion of the budget represents state money earmarked from future years. However, the way transportation funding is currently structured by state government, allocations more than a year into the future are not as certain as they once might have been. “We're [CDOT] moving into a new era, where we're spending money as fast as we can,” he said.
       Wrona indicated a preference to take a different tack than the one MacDonald proposed. What he will do over the next month or so is scrutinize CDOT departments, looking for funds that could be moved into the Cimarron account. He told the board - which consists of elected officials representing government entities from three counties in the Pikes Peak region - that he thinks such a creative effort can cut the shortfall “down to $10 million.” After that, choices could include downsizing the project or turning to “our local partners,” Wrona said.
       Asked about the situation after the meeting, City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager said she is confident “we will have the money for Cimarron,” and that the project will get “full funding from the state.”
       “I'm determined,” she emphasized.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 2/13/14)

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