By Jon Pilsner

When he first moved to Loveland three decades ago, Gene Pielin would read a magazine while driving on Interstate 25 because the traffic was so sparse, the mayor joked Thursday.

He wouldn’t dare do it now, all joking aside.

The interstate has long been too busy with traffic — cars, trucks, tractor-trailers and more — for Pielin to even consider a distraction while driving.

But the project that Pielin, U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey and others broke ground on Thursday will, they hope, alleviate congestion and traffic problems around the busy interchange at Crossroads Boulevard in northeast Loveland.

The project will include new off- and on-ramps as well as roundabouts on Crossroads.

Members of the Loveland City Council and the 4th Congressional District representative tossed the first shovels of dirt.

The project is partially funded by money in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the federal stimulus package.

“This is a significant day for transportation development in Colorado,” Pielin said.

The project will employ 150 people directly, said Pielin, and perhaps another 400 indirectly.

Antonio Ledezma, project manager for Jalisco International Inc. of Commerce City, which is building the intersection, said some of those jobs exist already, but some may be filled with people the company had to lay off or others who are unemployed.

Those jobs will be created at Jalisco and through subcontractors, Ledezma said.

The indirect jobs would likely come from suppliers and manufacturers of steel, asphalt, concrete and other materials needed for the project, he said.

Jalisco will use as many Colorado companies as it can for those materials, Ledezma said.

Markey said the Crossroads project is an excellent example of why the stimulus package exists.

“It’s creating jobs,” Markey said. “It’s improving safety in the transportation system, and it’s improving the quality of life in the area. It’s really important we keep pace with our transportation infrastructure.”

The project is funded through a variety of measures. The stimulus project will cover $3 million of the total cost of $6.9 million. An additional $1.5 million comes from federal highway funding through the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Centerra Metropolitan District, a taxing district inside the Centerra development, covers the remaining costs.

“I am so proud to be a part of this partnership,” Markey said. “Now is the time for us to reinvest in our transportation system.”