Public comment sought on I-25 plan

       A proposal by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to widen Interstate 25 through Colorado Springs has entered the public arena.
       CDOT recently released an Environmental Assess-ment (EA) detailing its proposal, and a display of the design plans is scheduled at the LeBaron Hotel, 314 W. Bijou St., from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 22.
        The EA proposes that a third lane in each direction be added over a 26-mile span between the town of Monument and South Academy Boulevard, as well as a special, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane for buses and carpoolers for 12 of those miles.
       Two of the main goals of the work are improved traffic movement and, as a result, stable air quality, on a 45-year-old freeway that has become increasingly congested over the past decade.
       In the proposed work, the most noticeable impacts on the Westside are:
       · New interchanges at Fillmore Street, Bijou Street and Highway 24/Cimarron Street.
        · A roughly half-mile noise barrier for the Holland Park neighborhood south of Garden of the Gods Road.
        · The removal of five residences on Chestnut Street south of Fillmore and, just west of the three new interchanges, the removal of several businesses and/or the partial acquisition of commercial properties.
       The interstate work will likely occur in three phases over the next 20 years, according to a CDOT brochure.
        Although exact start dates cannot be predicted until the the go-ahead from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), CDOT Resident Engineer James Flohr said that if all goes smoothly, a contractor could be selected by next January, meaning groundbreaking by spring or summer of 2005.
       The overall project is priced at about $550 million, but only $120 million is currently available, he said. As a result, CDOT plans to prioritize the work, using that $120 million to widen I-25 from Cimarron to Rockrimmon Boulevard, including interchange work at Bijou (but not yet at Cimarron or Fillmore) to provide three lanes on either side, he said. This work would probably last until the end of 2008, Flohr said.
       He noted the distinction that the proposed work is a “capacity” improvement project, in contrast to other work done on I-25 in Colorado Springs over the past decade, which has all been safety related (even though widenings have been part of that work so as not to have to go back into those locations later).
       The EA process is to “evaluate the environmental effects of the additional lanes,” the brochure states. Although CDOT's advance information is calling April 22 a “hearing,” there is no formal agenda; CDOT staffers and contracted engineers will simply be present with exhibits during those hours to answer questions and take comments from the public.
        The CDOT web site provides more information about the public process, noting that a 45-day public-comment period started March 29 and will continue through May 12. “FHWA will consider the public comments and develop written responses as part of its process to arrive at a final decision regarding the project's impacts,” the EA states.
        During the comment period, the public can review the EA online at www.i25environment.com or at locations where CDOT has placed a printed version. The nearest place is Penrose Public Library, 50 N. Cascade.
        In addition to the April 22 event, comments can be submitted to Wilson & Company in Colorado Springs. For more information, call 520-5800.

Westside Pioneer article