Will state be swayed by $5M ‘pot sweetener’ for Cimarron interchange? Tune in after May 1

       The Cimarron/I-25 interchange may be built in the near future, but not without locals chipping in… and maybe even seeing other desired projects delayed.
       To sweeten the pot for a competitive state funding process, City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager offered $5 million over the next five years, to be taken from city Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) funds that are more typically used to fix failing intersections.
       She first suggested the plan at the April 9 meeting of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board (which consists of elected officials from a three-county area). The RTA board members (also elected officials, tasked with overseeing RTA administration) formally voted for the strategy at their meeting later in the day.
       The action will mean nearly half as much money as usual available for city RTA intersection work and other discretionary im-provements over that five years, but “this is an important interchange for the community,” Krager told the board. “If we invest in Cimarron now, it will pay us back in the years to come.”
       For at least a decade, a new Cimarron interchange has been on the regional wish list, and a year ago the board ranked it as the highest transportation priority in the region. Money for right of way and design has been found, but not the $95 million that's estimated to build it.
       The most likely current source, according to local planners, is the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnership (RAMP), a new Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) program.
       But it's also competitive, with regions all over Colorado vying for about $750 million in all. Under the program, the region needs to submit an application for each project on state roads. After Cimarron, PPACG hopes to complete six less expensive projects, including, on the Westside, Fillmore/I-25 (a new interchange) and Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street (in which CDOT would augment already-assigned RTA funds as part of turning over maintenance responsibilities of that segment to local entities).
       How many, or any, of those projects can also be funded with RAMP is an open question. “The rules [for RAMP] are changing on the fly,” admitted Tom Wrona, director of CDOT's Region 2, which includes this area.
       Rob MacDonald, director of the PPACG, expressed concern at one point that under one “scheme,” to get the funding for Cimarron, “we may have to give up these other projects, but it's not the only scheme.” By “give up,” Commissioner Sallie Clark clarified later, he meant possibly delaying the work.
       One certainty in RAMP is that pre-applications need to be submitted by May 1. The PPACG board agreed it wants to do that. An approved motion directs staff to refine the details as needed leading it up to that date and leaves open the possibility of a special meeting for a specific pre-app vote.
       Upon receiving applications, Wrona said that CDOT should be able to give a “thumbs up or thumbs down by the end of May.”
       Clark said she and other government officials are hoping to find another million dollars by May 1 to add to the Krager $5 million, but in any case “I'm pretty confident” about how CDOT will receive the pre-application for the Cimarron interchange. “I think we're high up on the list.”

Westside Pioneer article