‘Jump start’ for design work on Fillmore

       A Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) project to improve traffic flow along Fillmore Street west of I-25 has been given a couple of recent boosts that could lead to it being built sooner.
       The first good news was the RTA carrying over funds from its 2010 budget. On a staff recommendation, the RTA board voted in April to assign $400,000 of the carryover to Fillmore in 2011 to allow preliminary design to start now, instead of 2012, as previously scheduled. Then, at the May meeting, the board voted to use $350,000 of that carryover to hire a contractor (the URS Corp.) to develop the preliminary design.
       Based on a city-contracted consultant's 2010 study that included considerable public input, the RTA goal for Fillmore is to ease congestion just west of the I-25 interchange, in large part by relocating Chestnut Street farther west, about 400 feet up the hill.
       Getting the preliminary design going this year should “jump-start” the project, allowing final design to occur after that and at least Phase 1 of construction to start in 2013 instead of 2014, explained Rob Kidder, former acting city engineer, in an interview before he left the city last week for a similar position in Mesa, Ariz.
       Other financial good news for the project came recently from the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT), which agreed to buy the properties at the northwest and southwest corners of Fillmore and Chestnut where gas stations now operate. The stations need to be removed to allow the new right-of-way configuration. If the city had to buy the properties, the overall project cost would exceed the roughly $6.7 million the RTA has budgeted for it.
       CDOT had marked those properties for removal eight years ago as part of its plans for widening I-25 and replacing old interchanges and ramps. Although no date has been set for a new Fillmore interchange, CDOT has determined it can afford to make those purchases now, explained Tim Roberts, a city traffic engineer.
       The city's desire to speed up the Fillmore project has been spurred by existing and planned construction in that area of the Westside, including recently announced plans by the federal Department of Veteran Affairs to start construction on a $10 million veterans' outpatient clinic at Centennial and Fillmore by fall 2014. By starting on the preliminary design in 2011, “we think we can get in and out before that [the clinic],” Kidder said.
       He also noted that the funding in 2011 does not mean additional RTA money for Fillmore, just earlier spending of the allocated funds.
       When the RTA was approved by voters in 2004, the project for Fillmore had been described by city officials as a widening from four to six lanes between the interchange and Centennial Boulevard. But the consultant's Fillmore study last year determined that even if lanes were added on Fillmore, there would still be a choke-point at Chestnut.
       Kidder said the RTA's eventual Fillmore work will take six to eight months, but the plan is to keep the major thoroughfare at least partially open all, or nearly all, the time.
       The RTA is funded by a penny sales tax.

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