Written by: Maria Servold

A tone of relief and gratitude echoed throughout a ceremony Tuesday marking the completion of the Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34 interchange improvement project.

The ribbon-cutting event, which drew leaders from the public and private sector and from all over Colorado, emphasized the importance of creating safe, well designed highway interchanges to better serve the community.

“This is definitely a great day for the city of Loveland and the Northern Colorado region,” Mayor Cecil Gutierrez said. “This is the culmination of seven years of work.”

Gutierrez said the main focus of the project — which took the intersection from a four cloverleaf pattern to two cloverleaves and two regular merge lanes — was to improve safety.

“There were serious accidents that happened at this interchange,” Gutierrez said, noting that the new interchange safely moves traffic in “an incredible manner.”

The project cost roughly $11.25 million and was funded by the Centerra Metropolitan District, an entity designed to fund public improvement projects in Northern Colorado. The Centerra Master Financing Agreement organized in 2004 Cole.Evanscted sales-tax money that was used for the funding of projects such as the I-25-U.S. 34 and Crossroads Boulevard-I-25 interchanges.

Gutierrez said the city of Loveland has embraced the idea of “essentiality,” allowing them to make decisions about where to spend public money based on what will create success for the city.

“Without these improvements, I believe the economic development of this city would have been delayed by years,” he said.

City Engineer Dave Klockeman told those gathered in a field on the northeast corner of the interchange Tuesday that he was glad the project was completed, despite some difficult hurdles — like building through two winters and allowing traffic through the interchange the entire time.

During the course of the project, the city was involved in seven intergovernmental agreements, six amendments to those agreements, 15 City Council decisions and 250 project meetings, Klockeman said.

“The commitment of this team and (for them) to still be smiling is a testament to that group,” he said. “It takes more than a village to build an interchange.”

Donald Hunt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, said the interchange update was a much needed improvement and that it will serve the Northern Colorado region for years to come.

CDOT hopes to continue to work with Loveland as it now focuses on widening sections of I-25 in Northern Colorado, Hunt said.

The public-private partnership that funded and organized the project was key to its success, said Kim Perry, president of the Centerra Metro District board.

Thirty percent of the funding for the project was from private sources, she said. More improvements will come to the area with continued use of the Metro District and a good relationship with the city of Loveland.

“This was really a great team effort and a wonderful new gateway to the city of Loveland,” Perry said.