Grand County narrowly missed having to pay money out of pocket for the Colorado River Pathway and transit hub.
The bicycle path and transit hub now under construction that begins at Hwy 191 and follows the first three miles of the Colorado River on State Route 128 is funded by the Paul S. Sarbanes grant, a federally funded program.
But with the partial government shut-down that began Oct. 1, Grand County didn’t have access to funds to pay contractors now building the pathway. The partial government shutdown ended Thursday, Oct. 16, a full day before a special meeting the Grand County Council scheduled to approve contracting for a loan as they waited for grant monies to become available.
At their regularly scheduled meeting held Tuesday, Oct. 15, the county council discussed the possibility of having to get a grant anticipation loan if the federal funds did not become available.
“The dollars are sitting in the federal government account,” said council chair Gene Ciarus. “There is no way of getting it out of the account.”
County clerk Dianna Carroll said at the council meeting that the county owed Flat Iron Construction $800,000. The total for the work to be completed in November would be $2.8 million.
“Unless something happens, we’ll have to consider bonding to pay that debt,” Ciarus said.
Carroll said that it would cost $12,000 to have attorneys draft the bond documents, and then interest would be approximately $7000 a month.
“This government shutdown will cause us to spend $20,000 to take out a short-term loan,” said councilman Lynn Jackson during the council meeting.
Carroll said that the bond attorney fee to prepare the documents was firm.
“When the government’s involved, the cost for the documents is the same for $1000 as it is for $1 million,” she said. “It would have required a resolution from the county council.”
Carroll said that they needed to pay contractors as contracted, but she expressed frustration that there was no way to know whether it would be necessary to acquire the loan.
“I’d hate to have documents drawn up, then have the federal government release the funds,” Carroll said.
She expressed relief on Thursday, Oct. 17 when the partial government shut-down ended.
“All will be good,” she said.
Carroll was told that the money should be available within a week and that there was no need for a grant anticipation loan.
The Colorado River Pathway along State Route 128 begins at the junction at Hwy 191 and ends at Negro Bill Canyon near mile marker 3. The pathway is intended to provide safe travel for cyclists and pedestrians along the narrow two-lane highway.
There will be a half-mile gap where bicycles and pedestrians will use the narrow shoulder of the road near Negro Bill Canyon until more federal grants are awarded.
Kim Schappert of Moab Trails Alliance, wrote grants that were awarded through the Paul S. Sarbanes Transportation Program. The county was awarded a $900,000 grant in April that allowed for the building of an additional 800-foot bridge structure and 500 feet of retaining wall.
This was the final grant award available through the Sarbanes program.
Schappert plans to research and apply for grants to complete the half-mile gap, though she said “federal money is hard to come by now.”
“This is an ongoing project. We’ve been breaking it down into different phases,” Schappert said. “Now we have a phase four – the part that hasn’t been funded yet.”
The transit hub at the junction of Hwy 191 and State Route 128 now under construction will have 43 parking spaces for people to park their cars and get on their bikes. There will be a 200-foot loading and unloading area for shuttle vehicles and tour operators. Shade structures and restrooms will be built.
There is also a 60-foot underpass to provide safe passage for bicyclists and pedestrians under State Route 128 from the transit hub to the Lions Park Trail Hub, where they can access the pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River. When the underpass is in place pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel from Moab to State Route 313 without ever having to cross or share a road with cars.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of November.