OWN backs Pioneer’s plan for Hwy 24

       The Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) has taken a position in favor of the Westside Pioneer's “first do no harm” plan for Westside Highway 24 improvements, as outlined in the newspaper's March 9 issue.
       Dubbing the proposal the “Westsiders' Option,” the neighborhood advocacy group agreed to hold a special town meeting in April (date to be determined) to discuss the concept with Westside residents.
       “We don't want to create super slab west,” commented OWN Vice President Welling Clark at the OWN meeting March 23.
       The Westsiders' Option seeks to solve projected highway traffic increases between I-25 and Manitou Springs without the removal of homes and businesses - in contrast to the freeway/expressway options suggested in recent months by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
       Clark said one of his reasons for skepticism about CDOT's plans is that its traffic projections show Highway 24 traffic numbers increasing up to 50 percent between Manitou and I-25 over the next 25 years - but drastically less west of Manitou. “There's a disconnect in the data,” he said. “It doesn't pass the common sense test.”
       A key goal of the new option is reducing the highway's impact on existing development by using more of the currently vacant Gold Hill Mesa subdivision property than CDOT has proposed. Contacted about that aspect this week, Gold Hill Mesa development leader Bob Willard expressed no adamant opposition, and said he appreciated the effort to make it a “win-win” scenario for himself and the Westside.
       As for the Pioneer's specific idea for a full-access overpass at 14th Street with shortcuts - partly through his property - aimed at easing traffic at 21st and 8th streets, he said he would be “willing to work with everyone” on such a plan. However, Willard said he prefers CDOT's idea for an overpass at 18th Street, which he believes would relieve 21st Street and allow traffic to leave his planned commercial area (southeast of 21st Street and Highway 24) in an expedient manner.
       At the same time, he conceded that CDOT's plan could force home removals through the established neighborhood along 18th between the highway and Colorado Avenue.
       The consensus of OWN board members March 23 was to set up a meeting on Highway 24 before the next CDOT open house at the West Center - which now is tentatively planned for early May, a CDOT spokesperson said this week. OWN's hope, as Clark suggested, is to galvanize Westsiders to support a less intensive highway option with the same zeal that they showed in convincing the city to retain the Westside's Fire Station 3 in 1995.
       Some political support appears to exist in that regard. No local elected official has publicly backed CDOT's proposals, and several have gone on record in opposition.
       OWN kicked off its advocacy on Highway 24 with a page 1 article in its direct-mailed Westside Story quarterly newsletter that was published this week. The headline reads: “OWN supports Pioneer's 'no harm' plan for Westside Highway 24.”
       In one of CDOT's development scenarios, the 18th Street overpass would be incorporated into a 21st Street overpass-interchange. That interchange could be built north or south of Van Briggle Pottery (which would be saved as a historic building). As for Eighth Street, CDOT has proposed an interchange/ overpass, including a possible flyover from I-25. The result at both intersections would be the removal of numerous homes or businesses.
       Between I-25 and 21st Street, in addition to a 14th Street interchange, the Westsider's Option calls for dedicated acceleration/ deceleration lanes to facilitate a smooth flow on the two through lanes each way.
       Farther west along the highway, the new option proposes acceleration/ deceleration improvements, some added left turns and surgical side-street widening to help traffic flow while keeping the intersections essentially un-changed. A full-access overpass (without cloverleafs) at Ridge Road would improve access to and from Red Rock Canyon Open Space and relieve 31st Street. There would be three pedestrian overpasses and one trail underpass.
       CDOT has suggested either a broadened intersection or no-access overpass at 26th Street; a broadened intersection or interchange at 31st or 30th streets, wiping out a mobile home park and possibly more; a limited-access overpass/interchange or stoplight at Ridge Road; and expansions to the existing Manitou Springs cloverleaf interchange, resulting in other business removals. No pedestrian overpasses appear on the CDOT plans.
       More details can be found on the Internet, at the Pioneer's westsidepioneer.com or CDOT's us24west.com.

Westside Pioneer article