Beltway and broadband measures added to city ballots

Barbara Traylor Smith
Barbara Traylor Smith

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Grand Junction voters will be asked to finance construction of a beltway as well as give the city authority to explore options for broadband communications services under two measures that will appear on municipal election ballots.

The Grand Junction City Council approved the addition of the measures to the ballot for the April 7 election. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed March 16 to registered voters in the city.

The election also will determine who fills five of seven seats on the Grand Junction City Council.

Referred Measure 2B will ask voters to authorize the city to incur additional debt to finance the proposed Westside Beltway as well as keep and spend tax revenues above those allowed by so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights limits in the state constitution.

Referred Measure 2A will ask voters to restore city authority to provide high-speed Internet and cable television services.

Barbara Traylor Smith, a member of the city council, said it makes good financial sense to go ahead with plans to construct the Westside Beltway now because low interest rates reduce the cost of financing.

The proposed beltway includes improvements along roadways connecting the west end of the Riverside Parkway to Interstate Highway 70, including 25 Road north of U.S. Highway 6 & 50, F 1/2 Road between 25 and 24 roads and 24 Road north to the I-70 exchange.

The project is expected to cost $25.5 million.

The ballot measure asks voters to allow the city to sell bonds to finance $14.5 million. Another $11.5 million in tax revenues the city has been saving to repay debt on the Riverside Parkway would be used to cover the remainder of construction costs.

City voters authorized in 2003 an $80 million bond issue to finance the Riverside Parkway and in 2007 agreed to a override to use funds collected above TABOR limits to pay off the parkway bonds early.

If the ballot measure is approved, the city could proceed with the beltway and still pay off the parkway and beltway at about the same time in 2024, Smith said.

The beltway will help to relieve existing traffic congestion along 25, 24 and Patterson roads, Smith said. The beltway also will help to accommodate future traffic anticipated when the Riverside Parkway is extended on its east end to connect with I-70.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Referred Measure 2B with the caveat the city council continue to allocate funding to improve other corridors, including 29 Road, Horizon Drive and North Avenue.

Referred Measure 2A overrides state legislation banning the city from directly or indirectly providing Internet and cable television services.

Smith said the city council has no intention of the city providing broadband communications services, but needs authority to at least have conversations with businesses that do. There’s also the option of exploring possible public-private partnerships to provide services, she said.

Smith said she realizes comparatively rural areas like Grand Junction don’t have large enough customer bases to spur competition.

Nonetheless, she said steps could be taken to improve access and reliability as well as achieve higher broadband speeds.

The chamber also has endorsed Referred Measure 2A.

In addition to the two ballot measures, the municipal election will determine the outcome of two city council races.

Chris Kennedy and Dennis Simpson are running for election to an at-large seat on the council with a four-year term. Kim Kerk and Rick Taggart are running for election to an at-large seat with a two-year term.

Three other candidates are unopposed in their re-election bids: Smith in District B, Bennett Boeschenstein in District C and Duncan McArthur in District E.

The chamber has endorsed Taggart, Smith and McArthur.