Hwy 24 ‘Westsiders Option’ plan going to CDOT, then citizens again

       Continuing efforts to take a proactive role in the planning process for Westside Highway 24, the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) has set meetings Thursday, April 20 with the Colorado Department of Transpor-tation (CDOT) project team and again Thursday, May 4 with Westside citizens.
       OWN's initial citizen meeting April 13 attracted close to 60 people. Attendees viewed a slide presentation by OWN Vice President Welling Clark outlining a “Westsider's Option” that would upgrade the highway corridor between I-25 and Manitou Springs to a much smaller degree than CDOT has proposed.
       To date, he said, the plans CDOT has shown at public meetings have all been overly large and and expensive. “I didn't see one that was friendly to the neighborhood,” he said.
       OWN's goal, Clark explained, is to develop a plan that will be broadly supported by Westsiders yet make enough engineering sense that CDOT could be convinced of its value. The proposal-in-progress is based on the “First do no harm” plan proposed in a March 9 Westside Pioneer article.
       Unlike the state's call for full interchanges at both 8th and 21st streets, the Westsiders' Option would leave those intersections at grade, relieving their traffic through an overpass at 14th Street that would hub “shortcut” traffic to the southern parts of 21st and 8th.
       The state's 21st interchange ideas have drawn perhaps the most local criticism. To preserve the historic Midland Railroad roundhouse (now Van Briggle Pottery), CDOT's alternatives would put the interchange either north or south of the current intersection. If the interchange goes north, it would wipe out the new Angler's Covey, the Prospectors' Statue mini-park and the Naegele Road commercial area; if it goes south, it would eliminate businesses and homes off Bott Avenue nearly to 24th Street.
       The OWN plan, as presented April 13, diverged a bit from the Pioneer's plan by suggesting that some property removals might be necessary. This would be in the area between I-25 and Eighth Street, where an estimated 76 percent traffic increase is foreseen by the year 2030, Clark said. OWN believes that three through lanes each way are necessary there (instead of the current two) plus a new, dedicated acceleration/ deceleration lane. The Pioneer plan would keep the two lanes and add just the dedicated accel/decel lane.
       “The area between Eighth and I-25 needs major work,” Clark explained at the meeting. “This would affect some businesses at Eighth Street, and they're aware of it, too.”
       He elaborated after the meeting that although OWN wants to avoid “overkill” in planning highway upgrades, “we don't want to underkill, either.”
       Another change from the newspaper's plan is at 14th Street. Some residents in the older neighborhood around 14th had expressed concern that an unimpeded overpass there would encourage “cut-through” traffic. The tentative OWN plan would prevent motorists from the east or west side of the highway from driving across the overpass any farther than to access the highway in either direction.
       Although the tenor of the April 13 meeting was mostly positive, questions were raised by residents in the Broadway Street area, who were concerned about cut- through traffic from the intersection of Broadway and 21st (which would have a stoplight in all scenarios). OWN's hope is that a traffic-calming project, which is planned for Broadway this year, would help discourage such undesirable driving practices.
       Dave Leinweber, owner of Angler's Covey, questioned the sense of the state-estimated $240 million project, the scope of which is less than seven miles. He estimated that the amount of time a driver might save as a result of the work would be five minutes. “We're going to spend all this money to save five minutes?” he asked. “Is that what this is all about?”
       OWN also took plan suggestions from citizens and offers of volunteer help.
       OWN's Highway 24 task force includes OWN board members Clark, Amy Filipiak and Jim Larsen, as well as Nancy Stovall of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group and Jan Doran of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO).
       CDOT's next public meeting will be Wednesday, May 10. Having announced last week that an expressway style of construction is planned, the agency and its project-planning consultants are expected to show more detailed alternatives in keeping with that design strategy. However, the CDOT engineers have also publicly expressed willingness to consider a neighborhood-created plan.

Westside Pioneer article