A lodging shuttle drives Thursday on a portion of Après SKi Way that has been rated to be in poor condition by a recent study of the city's road system.

A lodging shuttle drives Thursday on a portion of Après SKi Way that has been rated to be in poor condition by a recent study of the city's road system. Photo by Scott Franz. |

Steamboat Springs needs to triple investment in local roads to maintain good condition, study suggests


— The state of Steamboat Springs’ road system is strong, but city streets will need a much bigger annual investment from the city's budget to avoid crumbling in the coming years.

That’s according to a broad new study of the health of the city’s 78.6 miles of roads.

The $50,000 study utilized high-tech trucks armed with lasers and cameras to check on the quality of all of the city’s streets.

The Phoenix-based consulting company that executed the study told the Steamboat Springs City Council Tuesday that if the city wants to maintain the overall good quality of its road system, it will need to nearly triple its annual road maintenance budget from about $700,000 to $2.15 million.

If it doesn’t, the consultants warned, the city should expect to see its backlog of roads in poor condition grow above the current 8 percent and its deferred maintenance costs skyrocket in the future.

The study ultimately found about 66 segments of city streets are in poor condition and on the cusp of falling into disrepair and requiring reconstruction.

But overall, the city’s roadway system was given a grade of 63 out of 100, which puts it in the study’s "good" category.

The scoring system does not consider a road to be "poor" until it falls below a score of 40.

“This is going to be a great tool to use moving forward,” City Streets Superintendent David Van Winkle said Thursday.

The report, which was the first of its kind issued in the city’s history, was also eye opening for council members.

It essentially gave city officials the first overall report card for the city’s road system, which is valued at $110 million.

Many City Council members indicated that while they are open to investing more in city roads to avoid future deferred maintenance costs, they don’t think the city’s investment will ultimately triple in the coming years.

“We’re not going to go from $700,000 to $2 million. We can’t,” Councilwoman Kathi Meyer said. “But we can work and make sure that backlog (of roads needing immediate attention) doesn’t (increase) really dramatically.”

Council President Walter Magill said the city has likely been underfunding its annual road maintenance budget by keeping the investment at a static $700,000 for 11 years.

But like Meyer, he thinks the city’s budget realities will prevent a dramatic increase in funding.

“It’s just the fact of the budgeting of the city,” he said. “It’s certainly due for a 25 percent increase, maybe, and maybe that will take us a long way.”

Which city roads are in the poorest condition?

The presentation showed a picture of Apres Ski Way near the intersection of Ski Trail Lane as a poorly rated road.

Spring Hill Road was among the highest rated in terms of quality.

Much of the study, including detailed breakdowns of all of the road conditions that were provided to city staff, and future road maintenance scenarios, have not been made public.

Steamboat Today is seeking more portions of the study, including maps showing road conditions throughout the city and their grades.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


Scott Wedel 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The presentation says that about $2.15M is needed annually to put streets into a steady state of reasonably good repair.

The report notes that some streets are in such bad condition that they need to be rebuilt from subsurface up. The report states there is no money saved in working on those streets because they are already structurally ruined.

The report says that streets with some bad spots are the ones most important to repair because the cost to repair is modest and if not repaired then the damage will quickly spread so that entire road must be rebuilt.

What the report does not state is what is the annual funding needed to repair the existing roads so that they don't need to be completely rebuilt. It would not be irresponsible to leave the failed roads to be rebuilt in future years, but it would be irresponsible to do less than needed repairs so that more roads failed and needed to be completely rebuilt.

Politicians are so good at saying nothing can be done as a way of preserving the status quo, but then able to do what they just said was impossible when there is no other choice. If there was some natural disaster and $1M had to be cut from the budget then it would be cut. So they could cut parts of city budget to add money to spend on roads.

The amount needed to prevent more roads from failing doesn't appear to be known, but if they spend less than that then soon enough the annual amount needed for road repair will increase and they will be forced to come up with that money. So they may say they don't have the money now, but soon enough a city council will be coming up with that money. Other cities operate with substantially less money per resident. They just don't send big checks to their Chamber, pay for huge operating losses at a ski hill and so on.


Fred Duckels 3 weeks, 4 days ago

There is not much glory in maintenance.


Scott Wedel 3 weeks, 4 days ago


No glory in maintenance, but a lot of costs of failing to do maintenance.

And what is it with government secrecy? Town government trying to keep secret the 15% of roads that have structurally failed. A conspiracy theorist might claim that city residents on known bad roads might complain to get their roads fixed. So best way to prevent any political press to spend more on roads and less on political goodies to their cronies is to prevent the public from learning what roads have structurally failed. Personally, I would not ascribe to that conspiracy theory because it requires cleverness and planning ahead which are two skills not apparent in city council.

I think it is more likely that city road maintenance dept does want to hear from the public upset about their street being allowed to degrade so severely.


rhys jones 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Gobbledegook. Where are the infrastructure failings to justify this claim?

I ain't no Fred, but I've moved rocks for new roads before. Big rocks, little rocks, in the way, out of the way, they all had to go somewhere else. Sometimes I had a machine. Not often.

Can we afford a second opinion, or are we just going to write the check now?


Carl Steidtmann 3 weeks, 3 days ago

The issue here is: What is the proper role of government? Public goods are those that can not be provided by other entities, either individuals, businesses or non-profits. There is no argument that roads and general infrastructure fall into the category of public goods.

Looking through the city's budget for 2017 I find that the city plans to spend roughly $1,500,000 on community support. These include such worthy functions as , the free summer concert series, Main Street, the Environment, Arts and Culture and Human Resources coalitions. More than half the money $850,000 goes to the Chamber of Commerce.

Can someone from the council justify spending twice as much on subsidies to charity and the Chamber as they spend on what should be one of the core functions of government: road maintenance?


Scott Wedel 3 weeks, 3 days ago

I would be interested in an answer to Carl's question by anyone. Thus, restating Carl's question as:

Can anyone justify spending twice as much on subsidies to charity and the Chamber as they spend on what should be one of the core functions of government: road maintenance?

I will concede the grant to Human Resources as helping those in need, but the rest of the money goes to entertainment or to those already with money.


Martha D Young 3 weeks, 1 day ago

I hope you get an answer, Carl.


Larry Desjardin 3 weeks, 1 day ago

"Much of the study, including detailed breakdowns of all of the road conditions that were provided to city staff, and future road maintenance scenarios, have not been made public."

^------- Is there a justification for this?


Scott Franz 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Hey Larry,

Late Thursday, I submitted an open records request to the city to get the detailed portion of the report showing the grades for all city roads and the specific recommendations from the consultant. Seeing as this is a taxpayer-funded report, I expect the records request will be approved. Prior to the records request, City Streets Superintendent David Van Winkle told me he was hesitant to release some of the more detailed information he has in the roads report, and suggested some of that hesitation might be based on creating a false expectation that the worst rated roads would be fixed in upcoming budget cycles. He did offer to let me come by his office and take a look at it, but I decided instead to file a records request so I could get digital copies to give to the public. Prior to publishing this article, I was also hoping to at least get some more detailed maps showing the road conditions throughout the city. The consultant told me he would need to get city approval to release them first. I haven't heard back on that as well. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Scott Franz, Reporter, 970-871-4210


Larry Desjardin 3 weeks ago

Thank you, Scott. Anytime you or the paper shine light on otherwise concealed public documents you are doing the community a service.


Eric Morris 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Carl, I get your larger point, but there is a question whether they are by necessity a public good. My driveway in Indiana is maintained by me, the parking lot at Shadow Run is maintained by my condo association, then see examples like Central Park plaza, Marabou and Alpine Mountain Ranch, and Disney World forming its own government to keep other vulture governments from attacking its well-regarded multi-modal transit system.

See Dr. Walter Block here:



Scott Wedel 3 weeks, 1 day ago


That description of the book does not provide any explanation of how private roads would work.

Driveways and parking lots are used only by their owners or customers/employees. A road is different as it is used by people going to numerous different places. Roads are also a natural monopoly since there won't be multiple roads to choose from. So if roads were in private hands then it has to be regulated to prevent monopoly abuse and thus ends up looking a lot of government.


Eric Morris 3 weeks, 1 day ago

And Scott, that is justified by neo-Keynesian pablum: those are just "investments" to boost aggragate demand, kicking in the mythical "multiplier effect", thus showering the town with additional sales tax revenue, so that the roads can be maintained.


Eric Morris 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Debbie, I shouldn't respond to you. However, the amount is not due yet and I voted for it. I will gladly pay it when I get the bill. Now you owe me an apology and I will gladly forgive you.


Eric Morris 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Scott, the book is 496 pages. This study underscores a main point of the book: the current monopolist is doing a poor job of maintaining its responsibility despite its monopoly.

Side note. Looks like Debbie was disappeared. I didn't ask for it and wouldn't mind a one-time amnesty for all the departed.


Scott Wedel 3 weeks, 1 day ago


I think the paper's policy of disappearing people is simply wrong. I think it is unique for a site to disappear people's previous posts. Also, far more typical to temporarily block someone for repeated TOS violations that permanent. By removing person's history, it becomes real hard to even consider returning.

As for roads, government regulation of railroads to prevent profiteering from monopoly situations also led to railroads in bad condition and a major lack of innovation. Market situations that are naturally monopolistic are a big challenge for the free market system and the options are from bad to less worse.

And roads are not that bad to be government maintained as their is a substantial political constituency wishing roads to be maintained.


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Does any one really understand the policy that determines who should stay and who should go. Maybe I missed something but I have no idea why Debbie M was removed.


Eric Morris 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Dan, she made a libelous statement about me the other day, and it was off-topic anyway. I asked Pilot to remove it, which they did. She essentially repeated it in this thread (though it was less malicious); I did not flag this one but commented on it above. It looks like paper may have warned her the other day or put her on very short-leash.

As far as Walter Block book, he'd probably agree getting government out of road biz is much lower priority than getting it out of subsidy business Carl mentioned.


Chris Hadlock 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Unless I missed something, it looks like Harvey got bounced also. Perhaps this had more to do with their ongoing slugfest more than a simple "suggest removal".

Regardless, I had nothing to do with it. I would continue to call on the Pilot for a return to the anonymous posting ability with limits on the number of daily posts to control the worst abuses. Since the Pilot banned that policy the sheer volume of comments has crashed while the overall tone fails to improve. Like the old saying: "If you cannot handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen."

Sorry Pilot, but your current setup simply does not represent the views of the entire community. Only a very small portion of citizens ever bother to comment and then only the most opinionated. There sure is room for some middle ground if you took the time to do it right. Returning the rights of the anonymous comment would do much to bring those people back. You should listen to your readers and change these policies. These forums were much more vibrant before you tried to "fix it"


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Eric, thanks for the info. I do wonder about pilot policy. They kind of pick and choose.


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Debbie M. gone, Harvey L. gone. Message from Pilot???


Scott Wedel 3 weeks, 1 day ago


The Pilot acts as if deleting a message is a catastrophe as if some system administration has to manually remove it bit by bit.

It would make much more sense to simply delete the offending message and if a repeated offense then block posting for a few days. And if happens again then block for a week. So then, even from repeat offenders, it is a week between offensive posts. Nearly all would soon enough avoid offensive content.

Personally, I would seek to encourage responsible participation by expanding the editorial board to include online members. Such as sending an email to those that have recently posted on articles on the topic expected to be the editorial and make and asked for their thoughts to then try to incorporate into the editorial. So that people that don't post much can see their writing appreciated. For example, paper could have sent out an email saying considering an editorial on the BV bootlegged apts and what do you think?


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Scott, the only thing I can figure is some thin skinned soul complained to the Pilot and so Debbie and Harvey were banned. Hey Eric, I don't think it was you. I have an idea as to who it might be but I am not mentioning any names. As much as the lovely Mrs. K would like me to be banned I do like to post every once in a while. TeeHee


Scott Wedel 3 weeks ago


I suspect that it was some overly protective person at the paper deciding there had been multiple violations. Posting activity is low enough that it doesn't take a complaint to notice questionable posts. Someone at the paper can quickly enough read all of the recent posts.


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