Constitution extension reappears in PPACG plan

       About five years ago, the extension of Constitution Avenue was a hot issue in Colorado Springs. After considerable argument and a $500,000 study, the idea of running a new road east from the I-25/Fontanero interchange was put on the shelf with a clear set of criteria that had to be met before it could be brought back.
       Or at least that's what City Council member Margaret Radford thought.
       She expressed dismay this week at learning that the extension has resurfaced in the draft of the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan that was recently released for public review.
       “We know what the answer is now [that it wouldn't relieve traffic problems],” she said. “So why play games with ideas that don't make sense?”
       However, Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) staff members, who have developed the draft plan, believe that proper steps were followed. PPACG Director Robert MacDonald noted that the proposal is in the city's transportation plan, and, he said, citizens have proposed it on-line and, at a citizens “roundtable” that was part of the plan-development process, it was brought up by nearly half of the groups.
       He resisted Radford's suggestion that the roundtable input was “orchestrated” by staff. “We have [potentially] over 300 projects,” he said. In working with the citizens in such a setting, “we just explain the rules and let the roundtables do their thing.”
       In any case, “if local government doesn't want to do a project, it will never happen, because they would need to put up the match for federal dollars,” he pointed out.
       The basic idea of the extension is to create an expressway, most likely following the abandoned (now city-owned) railroad tracks from the Fontanero interchange east to Paseo Road, which marks the current west end of Constitution Avenue.
       The tentative PPACG construction priority list for the project shows a construction time frame between 2031 to 2035. But the cost shown, $15 million, is well under the $250 to $300 million that Radford believes is realistic.
       Radford, who says she got involved in city politics because of the Constitution issue, has already gained support for her position. The council-appointed Citizens Transportation Advisory Board voted this week to support the 2035 plan, but only a version that deletes the Constitution extension.
       What council previously agreed to was not to bring the Constitution proposal back until after 2020, and only then if several other east-west projects had been completed and analyzed for their impacts, Radford said, adding: “None of this has happened.”
       She said she may bring up the matter at the Feb. 11 council meeting, that she plans to speak on it at the Feb. 13 PPACG board meeting and that she will be paying close heed Feb. 25, when PPACG staff is scheduled to come to council to explain the 2035 plan as a whole.

Westside Pioneer article