County Road 49 on tap for a $26M extension

Weld County officials hope to start construction next spring on a $26 million road extension used by the county’s bread-and-butter agricultural and oil industries, a move aimed at shifting truck traffic away from Highway 85.

The road would extend County Road 49 three miles north from U.S. 34 to Eighth Street. The county will build the road over five years in three phases, the first of which will cost $6 million, Weld County Commissioner Doug Rademacher said.

Weld received $172.5 million in oil and gas property tax revenue last year. Almost $71 million, or 41 percent, funded school districts. The county retained 24 percent, or $41 million.

Of that $41 million, about $4 million goes toward roads, said Don Warden, Weld director of Budget and Management Analysis. That amount could rise to $9 million as part of the 2014 budget.

The road would particularly benefit oil producers and oil field production sub-contractors, sand and gravel suppliers, as well as dairy farmers who deliver milk to the Leprino cheese plant. In January, Dairy Farmers of America confirmed that it would move its milk delivery depot from Henderson in Adams County to the northwest corner of Weld County roads 47 and 64.

The road will also help Brighton-based oil drilling service companies, said Arlo Richardson, president of Greeley-based Mineral Resources Inc. Halliburton, for instance, employs 500 people in Brighton.

It also benefits Greeley residents, who use the route to drive to Denver, he said.

“It’s quite an important thing for… the service companies to travel those roads, but even for other travelers,” Rademacher said. “It’s a great thing.”

The county hopes that some trucks will avoid Highway 85 by using the County Road 49 extension. The intersection of County Road 49 and U.S. 34 now boasts approximately 6,000 vehicles daily.

“That’s pretty heavily used,” Rademacher said. “If we make that connection from 34 up to 14, as soon as the oil field in the northern part of the county starts to take off… that road will be a critical bypass.”

County officials have completed construction design of the three-mile extension of 49, and they are now securing right-of-way property from landowners.

The county eventually plans to connect 49 with Colorado 14. It also wants to widen 49 from U.S. 34 south to Interstate 76.

The entire project represents “the key part” of the county’s capital transportation project list in the next several years, Warden said. The road improvements could cost as much as $140 million.

The county will find out this month whether it will receive $1 million from the state’s Mineral Impact Assistance program, a grant program designed to help local governments offset the impact of oil and natural gas development.

Gov. John Hickenlooper reinstated the program last year after its funding was diverted in 2010 to help shore up state budget deficits.

County officials say they aren’t holding their breath for the $1 million in grant money.

“Does Weld County need the money vs. some of these other communities that are applying for it?” Warden said. “Our argument is the purpose of the funds going back to the 1970s were to mitigate (oil and gas) impacts.”

The project will go forward regardless of whether Weld receives the grant funding.

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