If all goes according to plan, the residents of the Outback Estates and Sun Country Meadows communities will be driving on paved roads by the end of the year. The Elbert County commissioners approved funds for roadway improvements on approximately four miles of County Road 29 in northwestern Elbert County during their regular meeting July 23.
The improvements are likely to begin after Aug. 1 and are estimated to be completed by December. The plan includes surface water drainage improvements, tilling a cement mixture into subgrade soils, asphalt resurfacing, signage and striping.
“This is a very exciting project for us,” County Manager Ed Ehmann told the commissioners. “The road is designed for a 20-year life cycle.”
Initially four contractors expressed interest in the project, but when bids were read on July 10, only one qualified company, Asphalt Specialties, had submitted a bid. Despite the lone bidder, Ehmann assured the commissioners that the bid was in line with cost estimates for the project, and the company was the same contractor that worked on County Road 194 and a half-mile of County Road 29 in 2013.
Residents in the area have been calling on the county to pave the road for years, even launching a community Facebook page in 2012, “Pave County Road 29 the WAY it is,” in support of immediate paving of the road despite the two 90-degree turns around Box Elder Creek.
Brenda Cunningham, an employee at Meadows Market and a frequent user of the four-mile stretch of County Road 29, was happy when she learned the road would be paved by the end of the year.
“They're out there grading that road all the time, but the first big storm that moves through, whoosh, it's full of washboards again,” she said. “It'll save me a lot of money on my car.”
In the past year, Cunningham replaced a rear axle and a strut on her pickup, which she partially attributes to the condition of the road.
County Road 29 is not the only road in Elbert County in need of attention. In 2008, the West Elbert County Transportation Master Plan identified 138 miles of roads with increased traffic that strains the county's ability to maintain them. Currently 12 of those 138 miles have been paved, but with a price tag of just under $1 million per mile, it may be a while before the county can afford to pave all the roads identified for improvement.
The 2008 Master Plan does acknowledge the county's financial struggles, stating that “Elbert County's ability to construct new roads or make improvements to existing roads is severely fiscally constrained.”
The County Road 29 paving project is funded in part by a $983,000 Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant along with a $2.5 million match from Elbert County's sales and use revenue. The county had hoped to begin work on the project in 2013, but did not have enough matching funds to be eligible for a DOLA grant.
DOLA brands itself as the “Face of State Government,” and assists local governments with subject matter experts and funding for community development such as transportation infrastructure, emergency response agencies, rural health-care programs, water and sewer systems and rural economic development efforts.
Elbert County has received $3.5 million in grants for road improvements over the past few years.