City staff asked to look at Cimarron Street bridge replacement by 2008

       Colorado Springs City Council has authorized its engineering staff to analyze a proposal to move the Cimarron Street bridge higher on the list of Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) projects.
       The plan, hammered out at a meeting of elected officials and staff April 22 and supported by consensus at council's informal meeting April 25, suggests that design efforts take place in 2007 and bridge construction start in 2008.
       County Commissioner/RTA board member Sallie Clark, a Westside resident, has pushed for the move-up, noting that the bridge's safety issues had made it a “poster child” for voters when they were asked to approve the RTA's 1-percent sales tax in the election last November.
       Built by the state over Conejos Street and the railroad tracks as part of the original I-25 project in 1958, the bridge is on the RTA's “A” list, but not among those projects scheduled to be accomplished through 2009.
       The only catch to moving it up, Council member/RTA member Larry Small said at the City Council meeting, is that “something else has to be moved out. Staff will have to look at that, to see if it's feasible.”
       The direction from council calls on City Manager Lorne Kramer to report back, either at the upcoming RTA board meeting (Friday, April 29) or the next council meeting in May, according to Council member/ RTA member Jerry Heimlicher, whose district includes the Westside. Should staff find a way to make it work, the RTA board would have to approve the change, he said.
       The reason the bridge replacement was not put on the 2005-2009 schedule was that $700,000 in repairs, completed last fall, improved the structure so that it can safely last another 10 years, according to city engineers. However, the bridge's sufficiency rating - 49 out of 100 - still does not meet the state's minimum standard of 50; also, its rating is likely to go down in the years ahead, Senior Civil Engineer Robin Kidder said in answer to a question from Clark.
       Kidder and City Engineer Cam McNair (who was hired this year after his predecessor, Gary Haynes, retired) ex-plained that between the city and the state, the bridge's structural sufficiency is monitored now every three months.
       Heimlicher supported Clark. With the state expecting to finish the Bijou/I-25 interchange by 2007, it would make sense to schedule Cimarron/ Conejos “right after Bijou,” he said at the April 22 meeting.
       Both he and Clark noted that this would especially be appreciated by Westsiders, for whom the bridge (along with Cim-arron) is one of the two main routes to downtown.
       About 19,000 vehicles a day use the bridge, according to city figures, with an estimated 3,000 more anticipated while the Bijou bridge is closed (from January to October 2007).
       Another factor in the mix is that the state hopes to replace the Cimarron/I-25 interchange within the next five years, assuming funding can be obtained. Building the new Cimarron/Conejos bridge before that would allow traffic to continue flowing east-west along Cimarron during interchange construction (because plans call for the new one to go in slightly south of the current one).
       One undisputed point is that any interchange construction needs to synchronize with future transportation work - the Cimarron bridge, as well as Highway 24 upgrades that are currently being considered west of the interchange.
       While waiting for the new bridge, Beth Kosley, a member of the Downtown Partnership and RTA Citizens Advisory Board, asked the city to consider cosmetic beautification work on the old one, because it is a gateway for visitors to and from the downtown. However, Small pointed out there are various other unlovely areas around the I-25/Cimarron interchange, and Heimlicher commented, “You don't want to perfume a pig.”

Westside Pioneer article