MESA COUNTY, Colo. - When driving along Interstate 70, people can either use the Clifton or Horizon Drive exit. However, one proposal is hoping to change all of that, by potentially putting in a new exit where 29 Road hits I-70.
The idea has been floating around for years now. "Since I've been a commissioner, we have talked about it every year," said Rose Pugliese, one of the Mesa County Commissioners.
Since the Mesa County Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the City of Grand Junction, the proposal gets a green light. "Great partnership between the two entities to finish completion of the 29 Road to the Interstate," said Pugliese.
The new exit would provide a variety of benefits to residents of the Grand Valley, according to Pugliese. Specifically, those living in Orchard Mesa would have new opportunities. "They either have to go all the way over to Horizon, or back over to 32 Road in order to catch the Interstate, so this would give us another route," said Pugliese. Pugliese added the new exit would also alleviate traffic on the roads.
Another goal of this new exit is to integrate the Grand Junction Regional Airport further into the community. "Opportunities for business parks near the airport, not in the airport, but near the airport. Which could help with economic development opportunities," said Pugliese.
Plus, it is the last piece of the puzzle to complete the corridor between two major highways on the Western Slope. "It ties in the Highway 50 corridor. So Delta, Montrose residents have the ability to get to our airport if they wish, or various other areas, [and it] will be greatly enhanced," said the Mesa County Public Works Director Pete Baier.
Right now the proposal is planning for an Environmental Linkage Study, which will analyze several aspects of the project. "NEPA process, National Environmental Policy Act, basically to obtain permission to put the interchange there and to do it properly through the Federal Highway Administration and through CDOT," said Baier.
Once the environmental study is finished, and if it gets approved, the goal is to obtain some funding from outside of the county. "Hopefully there will be some federal money that could also come into the project, in that we're connecting to the Interstate," said Pugliese.
The environment assessment could take most of this year, and potentially spill into next year, before it is finished. If it is approved, then the next step is the final design and to start finding outside sources of funding.