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Westside Hwy 24: State plans $15M repair, not $270M rebuild... at least for now

       The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is planning more than $15 million in upgrades by 2019 for Highway 24 between Eighth Street and the Manitou Avenue interchange.
       Still in the planning stages, the work will focus on a range of safety issues for the 4 ½-mile segment - primarily at its bridges, turn lanes and intersections. Also
As one of several Westside Highway 24 upgrades anticipated in 2018, the state plans to fill in this gap at the old Fountain Creek bridge on Highway 24 east of 21st Street, allowing the installation of a longer left-turn lane for westbound vehicles.
Courtesy of CDOT
included will be improved signal timing and a full road repaving, explained Mark Andrew, program engineer for CDOT's Region 4 (North) in an interview with the Westside Pioneer.
       Significantly absent will be the kinds of massive changes, such as lane additions, bridge replacements, property relocations and interchanges (at 8th and 21st streets), as defined in the federally approved long-range plan - titled “Envision 24 West” - which was finalized after an eight-year, $8-million CDOT study ending in 2012.
       According to Andrew, fulfilling that plan would cost an estimated $270 million, and the state has no money for it. In the meantime, the half-century-old, four-lane divided highway has safety and capacity issues that can't be ignored. “It may be 20 to 30 years before we can widen the road,” he said, “but we need to do this now.”
       However, he noted that any improvements will keep the study in mind, to “minimize throwaway,” as he put it, when the “Envision” plan does come to pass. He added that state engineers believe the more efficiently designed interchange at Cimarron/I-25, which is under construction, will improve highway traffic flow, but not enough to make the long-range plan unnecessary.
       In preparation for the upcoming Eighth-to-Manitou safety improvements, CDOT engineers will spend 1 ½ to 2 years analyzing safety needs, in conjunction with
In 2010, work on a new right-turn configuration onto Highway 24 (upper right, background) caused northbound 21st Street traffic to back up during a $225,000 project by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority to reduce safety problems at 21st and 24. The green light is at Bott Avenue.
Westside Pioneer file photo
accident data, with the expectation of breaking ground by 2018 at the locations that need help the most, Andrew outlined.
       One of the most prominent of these sites will likely be the westbound left turn lane at 21st Street. The highway bridge over Fountain Creek, which is less than 300 feet east of the intersection, has an open-air separation between the two sides of traffic. This limits the westbound left-turn lane to about 10 cars. When there are more, they stack up dangerously into the left-handthrough lane. This has been happening with greater frequency as the region has grown over the years and could even hamper access to Gold Hill Mesa's commercial area when it goes in south of Highway 24, Bob Willard, one of the development partners, has previously asserted.
       Andrew said the 21st Street work will include repairs to the bridge itself, which will allow the left-turn lane to be lengthened over the current open-air portion. The possibility of a double-left is also being considered, he noted.
       Overall, the CDOT safety work is defined in two parts, according to a list that Andrew provided. Part 1, estimated at $6.125 million, will consist of the 21st Street work described above, as well as fixes at other turn lanes and/or intersections identified in the analysis, “with possible additional signal improvements at these locations,” Andrew said.
       The other intersections with known left-turn issues are 31st Street and Ridge Road, Andrew said in the interview. At Ridge, “Envision 24 West” calls for the roads to be separated, with Ridge as an overpass. But the most that Andrew anticipates in the upcoming project is raised concrete islands to prevent left turns from Ridge onto the highway.
       At 31st, an identified need is to lengthen the highway's eastbound left-turn lane.
       The list's Part 2, estimated at $9.561 million, will consist of an overlay west of Eighth Street, along with “some bridge repair at various locations” between there and Manitou, Andrew summarized. “This overlay will mill and fill with asphalt within this segment and provide various bridge improvements including expansion devices, deck repair, etc.”
       In a separate CDOT project, planned this summer, crews will be improving pedestrian access on Manitou Avenue, under the Highway 24 interchange, Andrew said. This work will tie in with the start of what's being called the Westside Avenue Action Plan project along the avenue between 31st Street and the interchange.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 1/10/16; Transportation: Major Roads)

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