More than $100 million worth of road projects in El Paso County have made it past the first round of a statewide highway funding program, including the high-priority Interstate 25-Cimarron interchange project.
There are two more rounds to go.
But getting past the first step for a piece of the $1.5 billion available from the Colorado Department of Transportation means the county's five road projects have made it to the most important phase of consideration.
The money is from the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP), which allows the transportation department to advance funds for highway projects over five years.
"I think this is a great step forward that the initial application has gotten through, but that doesn't guarantee we will get funding," said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark. "We still have to make that second cut."
The next step is to provide more detailed applications by a July 1 deadline.
Projects will be ranked Aug. 9 and the final decisions will be made in September.
"There are just over 200 projects that moved onto the second round," said Craig Casper, transportation director for Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the regional organization that submitted the list of projects. "Each project needs a 16-page detailed explanation."
Local governments and agencies have declared the Cimarron-Interstate 25 interchange the area's most important project. It's a key downtown Colorado Springs interchange, as well as the route west to towns such as Cascade, Woodland Park and Cripple Creek. The project carries a $95 million pricetag.
Other projects submitted by the PPACG include the widening of Colorado 21 (Powers Boulevard), improvements to the Old Ranch Road interchange on Colorado 21, the Fillmore Street interchange, U.S. 24/Garrett Road intersection improvements and U.S. 24/Judge Orr Road intersection improvements.
The PPACG will meet with the transportation department Wednesday to make sure of the guidelines for the second round, Casper said.
Competition will be fierce, he said.
"CDOT is going to have a very difficult time picking projects for the funding level," he said. "It's going to be a difficult competition. The good news is that they are doing it in a methodical manner."
Still, there's plenty of optimism for local projects.
"All five of our projects will be highly competitive," Casper said. "But I think the commission will make sure the peanut butter gets spread evenly around the state. I don't think we will get all five of them funded, but I do think Cimarron will be funded, and that's our top priority."