GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - The 10-mile stretch of Highway 9 between Green Mountain Reservoir and the town of Kremmling in Grand County is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the state. It sees dozens of car accidents a month from wildlife crossing the road. Now a major safety improvement just cleared a major hurdle.
The numbers speak for themselves. Nearly 500 animals have died along Highway 9 in the past decade. Sixteen people have been killed in their vehicles over the past 20 years. It's how Mike Richards lost his parents.
"We want to help make Highway 9 safer for the traveling public and the wildlife that is there," Richards said.
"I will not drive that road because I feel like it puts my life in danger on that road. As a private citizen I supported it, and as a professional I supported it," a resident told the Grand County Commission before they took a vote on whether or not the county should pick up the remaining tab for the privately funded side of the improvements.
Not a single person spoke against the project at the meeting.
"Let's make it good for everybody in our state, not just Grand County. There are a lot of visitors that come through there," another resident told the commissioners.
The projects is a $46 million design to improve the road by installing high wildlife fences, underpasses, and the state's first wildlife overpass.
Because of Colorado Department of Transportation deadlines, a group of citizens raised over $1 million in pledges in just the past 40 days, but needed more money; so they asked Grand County to fund the remaining $3 million to finish the funding for the project.
"Seize this opportunity, fund the Highway 9 safety project, and move Grand County forward," another resident said.
After bitter debate on the significant sum, commissioners agreed to pick up the rest of the tab. One commissioner called it an investment in the future, not an expense. But the very-needed safety improvement project still has a lengthy road ahead.
"It goes through the CDOT process … we'll hear ultimately Sept. 19 whether this project has been accepted or not," Grand County Commissioner James Newberry said.
The Highway 9 project is one of more than 200 that are competing for funding from CDOT's "RAMP" program. RAMP, or Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships, is a program created by CDOT to move forward with badly needed road projects by combining state funding with local funds.
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