No show-stoppers at I-25 forum
75-some comments taken from public on EA document

       Hundreds of people dropped by the LeBaron Hotel to participate in the nine-hour open forum on the I-25 widening proposal April 22.
       They contributed close to 35 written comments, plus another 22 that were orally submitted to a professional recorder.
       Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials were just beginning this week to look at the comments, although CDOT Resident Engineer James Flohr told the Westside Pioneer at the end of the forum that he had not heard anything that day that would lead to a significant replanning of the project.
       CDOT's Environmental Assessment (EA) proposes that a third lane in each direction be added over a 26-mile span between Monument and South Academy Boulevard, as well as a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane for 12 of those miles, a Holland Park noise barrier and several new interchanges, including ones feeding to and from the Westside at Cimarron, Bijou and Fillmore streets.
       The forum was part of a public comment period that will continue through May 12. Comments can still be submitted via the CDOT web site at www.i25environment.com or by calling Wilson & Company, an engineering firm working with CDOT, at 520-5800.
       If no major problems are found in the EA, or as a result of public feedback, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is expected to give CDOT the go-ahead - “building permit,” as Flohr called it - in August. Additionally, more detailed design work would follow, along with the hiring of a project contractor, with work expected to get underway in spring or summer of next year, he said.
       The overall project is priced at about $550 million, but “only” $120 million is currently available. That amount would be used to fulfill the highest CDOT priority, which is putting in three lanes each way between Cimarron and Rockrimmon Boulevard.
       During the forum, Flohr provided additional insights about the designs of these interchanges.
       Bijou is expected to be built before the Fillmore and Cimarron interchanges, because its construction is necessary to get the required six lanes through. Flohr said CDOT “is not sure yet” what strategy will be used for the Bijou interchange. Making the design tricky is that the space is so tight (largely because of the park, creek and railroad on the east side of the bridge) that the new interchange has to use the same basic footprint as the existing one.
       One option is to build one side, then the other, while allowing limited flow over the half not being worked on. But this would probably take longer - perhaps three years - than if the interchange were closed entirely to let the contractor work more efficiently. In that scenario, the bridge could probably be completed in just a year, Flohr said.
       As currently planned, the Bijou bridge would have sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides. Vehicle traffic would still be two lanes each way.
       Cimarron has more flexibility in layout because open land is to the south of the current interchange, mostly owned by CDOT with some belonging to the City of Colorado Springs. As a result, the preliminary design calls for the new bridge to be built just south of the old one, allowing the old interchange to remain in use until the new one is ready, Flohr said.
       No sidewalks are in the interchange design at this time because the nearby Midland Trail, going under the interstate and partially paralleling Cimarron, will be expected to handle foot traffic, Flohr said. Unlike the current Cimarron, road shoulders will be provided, he said.
       He added that CDOT is working with the city on possible access from the realigned Cimarron to Confluence Park. A traffic study will be needed before the access could be incorporated into the design, but it is helpful that several years will transpire before construction will occur, Flohr said.
       The Fillmore intersection will have a configuration similar to that at the Garden of the Gods, with the difference being that at Fillmore it will be on the bridge instead of under it. This was also the only site where houses are to be removed. These are the five south of Fillmore Street and west of the interstate, to allow Chestnut Street to be realigned farther west of the intersection than at present.
       Both Cimarron and Fillmore are not likely to be worked on until after 2008, based on CDOT's tentative timetable.

Westside Pioneer Article