New interchange at Cimarron/I-25 to get funding in 6 years
Regional board vote raises project’s priority

       The Cimarron/I-25 interchange has regained a high perch in regional transportation priorities, although that still won't mean construction starting any sooner than 2014.
       The date, confirmed by Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Region 2 Director Tim Harris, followed a vote March 12 by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Govern-ments (PPACG) board that incorporated a list of time ranges for key projects up to the year 2035.
       The list shows a new Cimarron interchange between 2008 and 2015, but the necessary state funds will not be available until 2014, according to Harris and PPACG Transportation Director Craig Casper.
       “We are looking at potentially doing it at that time,” Harris said. “In the meantime, we could begin design work.”
       Although not stated in the vote, the action essentially involved a priority switch between two similarly priced projects. A widening of I-25 from Interquest Parkway to Northgate Road ($80 million) had been in the 2008-2015 slot. Now it will move down to 2016-2020, where Cimarron ($75 million) had been.
       The momentum for the change had been laid at the Feb. 25 Colorado Springs City Council meeting, when a consensus agreed that Cimarron needs to build as soon as possible because of its importance to the core area of the city. It had once been second on the list behind Highway 16 near Fort Carson - and would even have been part of COSMIX if more money had been available - but was shown lower on the staff-produced priority list that was released for review in January.
       Raising pro-Cimarron voices at PPACG were Vice Mayor Larry Small and County Commissioner Sallie Clark (both board members)
       County Commissioner Wayne Williams, who represents the north part of El Paso County, had advocated the Interquest-Northgate widening, but joined the unanimous board vote. The board action does leave an I-25 widening from North Academy to Interquest ($37 million) in the pre-2015 priorities.
       The vote was technically an approval of the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan and 2008-2013 Transportation Improvement Program. It includes the draft 2035 forecast (including job and population amounts and whereabouts) that has been the subject of previous citizen concern and statistical critiques, particularly from the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN). No public comment was presented March 12.
       Another element of the vote, which also followed City Council's recommendation, was designating $100 million for a future extension of Constitution Avenue (not due for construction consideration until after 2020) east from the Fontanero/I-25 interchange. It had been shown for just $5 million in the previous long-range plan, which board members agreed was far too low.
       The Cimarron project's layout has been previously “environmentally cleared” - approved by the federal government in 2004. Some traffic-flow changes have been suggested as part of CDOT's ongoing Westside Highway 24 expansion study, but these do not require a new federal scrutiny, according to CDOT officials. As a result, design work would consist mainly of ironing out those details and determining whether to do the job as a “design-build,” which gives the contractor more leeway as issues come up (as on COSMIX), Harris said.

Westside Pioneer article