|Bridging the Divide: state steers stimulus Pueblo's way
May 11, 2010.
By DENNIS DARROW
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
Pueblo will get highway stimulus money, after all.
And one of the projects to benefit will serve as a lasting tribute to veterans while furthering the development of the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo and Pueblo Convention Center area.
The riverwalk's planned Veterans Bridge - a pedestrian bridge that qualifies as a trails project - will receive $600,000 in federal stimulus money, the state decided last week.
An additional $5.2 million will go for repaving a stretch of Highway 50 near the Pueblo Chemical Depot. The project was approved but awaiting funding next year.
The projects approval comes months after local leaders criticized the state transportation governing board for leaving Pueblo off of the initial federal stimulus spending list.
Tim Harris, regional director for the state Department of Transportation, said the original stimulus projects realized a savings once they were put out to bid.
The freed-up money was then turned over to each of the state's regional transportation districts for spending based on their regional priority lists, he said.
The two Pueblo projects made the southern region's cut, he said.
"It was nice to have this opportunity," Harris said.
"The bid savings is what made it possible," he said.
A ground-breaking event for Veterans Bridge is set for Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Construction will follow with the bridge set to open Veterans Day 2010.
Fundraising began three years ago with the sale of $75 bricks carrying the names of local veterans. The bridge can hold 4,000 of the bricks; more than 3,700 have been sold.
Initially, the brick sale was hoped to fund much of the project but a sharp rise in construction prices doubled the price tag to more than $1 million from $500,000.
The stimulus money will fill the gap.
"It's just a huge deal. It's just another part of the momentum here in Pueblo," Historic Arkansas Riverwalk director Jack Johnston said of the funding gain.
Johnston praised Pueblo County commissioners and county Public Works Director Greg Severance for pushing for the stimulus money, part of a community-wide campaign to fund the bridge that includes the city of Pueblo, veterans groups and businesses, he said.
The $5.2 million repaving project on U.S. 50 east of the Pueblo Chemical Depot should also begin this year, Harris said. The repaving will extend more than 5 miles to Highway 209 in the Boone area.
Some money also will go to make highway repairs near Pueblo County High School.
Copyright 2010, The Pueblo Chieftain, Pueblo, CO.