Funding still elusive for Fillmore/I-25 interchange

       Even with its drastically lowered cost estimate, a new Fillmore/I-25 interchange still lacks construction funding.

CDOT engineers Don Garcia (left) and Shane Ferguson (right) explain the diverging diamond design planned for Fillmore/I-25 to an attendee at the Feb. 13 Mesa Springs Community Association meeting.
Westside Pioneer photo

       As a result, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) engineers said at a neighborhood meeting Feb. 12, when they complete the interchange design this year, they expect it go “on the shelf” while the needed funding (up to $12 million) is sought.
       As a result, the project could very likely not start until after the current Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) Fillmore-Chestnut project just west of I-25 is finished in the fall. However, CDOT engineers Don Garcia and Mark Andrew said they do not expect there to be a great deal of “throwaway” between the two projects.
       For example, they noted that some curbing that otherwise would be set in concrete will be built with asphalt to make it easier to remove. The unavoidable throwaway problem is that the grade between the interchange and Chestnut will change slightly, but such work can't be finalized without both projects in place.
       The presentation was given at a meeting of the Mesa Springs Community Association at the Mercy Center. The design, a relatively new type called a “diverging diamond interchange” (DDI), was written about in the Westside Pioneer about a year ago, but it seemed to be a surprise to nearly all the attendees.
       In a DDI, traffic is directed to the left as it crosses the interchange so as to avoid obstructed left turns. The CDOT officials said that studies by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have shown this design leads to fewer accidents.
       The project will also include a longer northbound on-ramp and southbound off-ramp.
       One issue for attendees was whether a breakdown in one of the two lanes for westbound traffic across the interchange might cause major backups. Andrew said he didn't think so, but would look into it.
       When the design is complete “in the next few months,” a public meeting will be held to explain the project in more detail, including traffic simulations, Garcia said.
       If funding is available, the earliest Andrew believes the project could be advertised for construction bids is July. But otherwise, “we're making a good effort to design it, then put in on the shelf,” he said.
       A previous, more complex Fillmore design had preliminary estimates from $50 milllion to $80 million.
       Still, Andrew believes it's possible that DDI funding “may come available” by summer. One source would be a fund that addresses bridge safety: While the span currently is not dangerous, its rating is “sufficiently low” that it could qualify, he said.
       He also suggested that dollars could be extracted from a safety branch of the state's FASTER program, which is funded through increased car registration fees.
       As far as traditional federal funds that the state disburses to the region, it would be up to the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board, but such money annually comes up well short of identified area needs. The board consists of elected officials from local governments.
       A tough PPACG decision that may present itself this year is deciding whether to proceed on Fillmore or the Cimarron/I-25 interchange, which has been a top regional priority for close to a decade. However, Cimar-ron's higher cost (currently around $100 million, when interim at-grade improvements that would be needed around Eighth Street are factored in, according to CDOT engineer Lesley Mace), has made it difficult to fund over the years.

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