The new falcon herald logo.
Feature Articles

Lack of data precludes funding

As states line up to receive loans and grant monies for infrastructure from the federal stimulus package, Colorado may be asked to step to the back of the line.Tim Wolken, director of public services at El Paso County Department of Transportation, said the department has had difficulty with the grant application process. “I was in a staff meeting about a month ago, and we were talking about the Hazard Mitigation Grant we were applying for, and it seemed that we were having difficulty proving the need because of the lack of stats that were available,” he said.Wolken said the grant enables the recipient to address specific intersections or roads. Unavailable statistics prevented the El Paso County DOT from completing the grant application process. “We were really struggling past that first step of proving the need,” he said. “We certainly have an idea of roads and intersections that need to be fixed. There are a lot of long range plans to do that, but to have statistics to back that up and the traffic incidents in that area would be helpful.”Victoria Chavez, transportation planner at the El Paso County DOT, said the Hazard Mitigation Grant is a federal grant available for projects over $50,000. “What I found is that most of the data we have is pretty old,” she said. “I think the last data we had was from 2005. What I found is that the state is the one that collects that data, and they are basically holding on to it. Whether it’s not been QA’d or QC’d (quality controlled or quality assured) or if it’s not put into a database, I’m not exactly sure what the holdup is. The impact for us is that it made it extremely difficult for us to apply for the Hazard Mitigation Grant.”Chavez said the data was so old that the intersections that previously had accidents were already addressed. “So, in the last couple of years we had already done work that had improved those intersections, but we didn’t have any new data,” she said.C. Steve Hooper, director of operations for driver services at the Colorado Department of Revenue, said current traffic data for El Paso County will not be available for almost a year. Hooper said the lack of data began July 1, 2006, when the CDOR began using a new traffic reporting form. The old “447” form had been processed via optical character recognition technology and the data was then stored. Hooper said the CDOR began using the new forms before programming was in place to process them. He said although the programming to process the forms is almost complete, it will be a big effort to accomplish the data entry that has accumulated since 2006.Janet Allbee, statistician with the Colorado State Patrol, said the Department of Revenue is the “ultimate keeper” of the detailed data. “They are the agency of record for all this information. They’re the ones who deal with licensing of vehicles and licensing of drivers and driver control,” she said. “All jurisdictions in the state have to get their accident data to the Department of Revenue; so, ultimately, they are the source of all knowledge. Every state has one department that is the agency of record and because we don’t cover everything, we don’t get everything.”Chavez noted that the problem of missing traffic accident statistics could cause difficulties in other grant applications. “There may be a new school that was built in the last couple of years, and we may want to apply for a Safe Routes to School Grant, which could have done infrastructure work,” Chavez said “It could provide sidewalks. It could provide the flashing school lights. It also could provide an educational program, but without data to support that. it’s hard to justify. It’s harder. It’s not impossible, but it makes it harder to justify the need if you can’t back it up with crash data statistics.”How can the DOT prioritize projects without traffic incident data?Chavez said other considerations, such as safety, traffic patterns and new development, are also taken into account when deciding to fund road projects. “There’s a whole litany of things we look at to prioritize projects. I think of it more in terms of funded versus unfunded projects,” she said. “We certainly have more needs in transportation projects than we have money.”If federal money is granted, then the county works with the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. Smaller projects, such as a stretch of potholes, can be fixed more quickly with local money. “Just like the Hazard Mitigation Grant, there are criteria for that grant, the Safe Routes to School Grant. There are certain criteria for that. There are different criteria for different pots of money,” Chavez said.Wolken said the Rural Transportation Authority is a major source of funds for road improvements, and much of that funding is earmarked for the Falcon area, including a Falcon Park and Ride, the widening and extension of Meridian Road and the extension of Stapleton Road and Judge Orr Road. Wolken said about $6 million a year of RTA funding is also used for maintenance projects. He said Eastonville Road, a maintenance project, is a high priority. “What we have typically tried to do with RTA maintenance money is to not change the surface of the road itself. If it’s paved, we are going to repave it. If it’s chip seal, we’ll chip seal it,” Wolken said. “With Eastonville, we probably will go from gravel to chip seal.”The El Paso County DOT is considering another means to support road projects – a traffic fee. “As the Falcon area develops and they bring in new commercial areas, there would be a traffic fee associated with that,” Wolken said.

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers