Greenway concepts go before public

       The next open house on a proposed “Midland Greenway” - being planned in conjunction with the “Midland Expressway” Highway 24 expansion project - will be Thursday, March 22.
       The location will be the CPCD/Head Start Office, 2330 Robinson St.
       No actual meeting is scheduled; people are invited to drop by between 6 and 8 p.m. to study the exhibits, consider three conceptual alternatives and ask questions of planners.
       In a presentation to the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) March 14, the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT) Highway 24 planning team explained that the greenway is part of a “systems solution” by which the highway project could simultaneously provide recreation/beautification amenities and solve problems with the Fountain Creek's flood plain and water quality.
       Kevin Shanks, a landscaping architect working as a CDOT consultant on the greenway effort, elaborated that fixing those problems is not required to lure federal funding for the highway project; however, he noted, any new highway work would be required to control its own drainage, an enhanced corridor is one of the basic goals of the expansion, and the Federal Highway Administration has asked the CDOT team to look for flood plain and water quality solutions.
       One of the greenway-related questions has been where the money would come from, because much of the beautification/recreation aspect would not be covered by federal highway dollars. Shanks and lead project consultant Mary Jo Vobejda presented a slide indicating funding “opportunities” involving several local government sources for each of such greenway categories as flood control, bridge-raising (to allow a Fountain Creek trail to go under intersections), water quality treatment and construction of park-and-ride sites.
       No greenway cost estimates have yet come forward, but will in the near future, Shanks said. The highway project itself, covering a 4 ½ mile span from I-25 to Manitou Springs, has been estimated at $250 million (with no money yet allocated).
       Asked what would happen to designated greenway trails/open spaces if the local funding is not available promptly, Shanks said he does not think that would occur. It would save taxpayer money to do the greenway work at the same time (or even before) the highway work, plus there would likely be chances to leverage local money by obtaining matching grants for many of the improvements, he said.
       With the highway potentially taking on greater size, PPACG board member Mark Morland asked about north-south access from neighborhoods such as Midland (where he grew up). Vobejda responded the planning team is “very open” to a pedestrian overpass between 21st and 26th or 31st streets - although such niceties have not appeared on previous highway expansion or greenway maps.
       Vobejda also noted that planning for the highway expansion is temporarily on hold while waiting for the 2035 Small Area Forecast numbers that are to provide updated traffic projections. The project team's current focus is developing a greenway master plan, she said.
       The team has held one previous greenway open house (in January) and several meetings with an advisory committee of citizens/area entities, in developing the proposed concepts for the March 22 meeting. Several of them have expressed enthusiasm for a greenway. An example is the Trails and Open Space Coalition, which, in its current newsletter, writes: “More than just a trail, the greenway offers an opportunity to provide a spectacular amenity to the city's Westside.”

Westside Pioneer article