Public meetings to begin in spring on upgrading Hwy 24

       The wheels are turning to give Westside Highway 24 what could be its biggest upgrade since it was built around 1960.
       Dave Poling, program engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), told the Westside Pioneer this week that CDOT will begin hosting meetings on the Westside “in April or May” to get feedback from the public about the kinds of capacity, safety and access work that might be necessary on the section between I-25 and the first Manitou Springs exit.
       Although there has been informal talk about widening the highway from four to six lanes or putting grade separations at one or more of the cross streets (8th, 21st, 26th or 31st), Poling said CDOT has made no advance decisions on such work.
       “We are just beginning the process to look at the improvements that need to be made,” he said. “It’s a unique corridor, with the creek and historic features, and closer to Manitou there are geologic issues.”
       Regarding widening, Poling said CDOT wants to “see what other options there are in lieu of widening.” Transit is one alternative that will be considered, he said.
       Adding to the mix are the envisioned Gold Hill Mesa subdivision at Highway 24 and 21st Street, which could add up to 1,800 new homes over the next several years; and the new Red Rock Canyon Open Space, which will lead to increased traffic at its Ridge Road access point, he said.
       CDOT will also be looking at adjusting traffic signal timing west of the first Manitou exit, up to the Cave of the Winds light. However, Poling noted, road widening for that part of the highway is not in the scope of the planning process.
        The goal for the meetings is to get ideas from the public before starting to draw up plans. The meetings will be a “chance to talk about issues as we see them and for residents to get their issues out there,” he said. “During that time, we’ll do traffic studies and get some technical information. We’re not going to generate any concepts until summer.”
        The meetings will at Westside locations with sufficient parking, possibly schools or the Manitou Springs City Hall, he said. Poling figures it will be about two years before the plans are complete, at which point funding will need to be sought. He estimated the earliest work would not occur until “2007 or 2008 at the earliest.”
        He hopes there will be a good citizen turnout at the meetings. “People from the area know those traffic patterns best,” he said. “We encourage them to attend. They may think that they won’t be listened to, but what people say is of value to us and oftentimes shapes a project.”
       A preliminary public process already has occurred – through the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG). PPACG included the segment in its report, “Transportation Improve-ment Program (FY2004 through FY2009)” after seeking public input from October 2002 to July 2003.
       The only significant upgrades on the Midland Expressway over the years that Poling was aware of are intersection improvements and guard rail installations.
       A project this summer to pave the highway and replace/adjust guardrails is separate from the upgrade planning effort, he noted.

Westside Pioneer Article