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Cimarron/I-25 project plans revealed; relatively minimal traffic impacts foreseen

A contractor's rendering (looking north) shows the design of the new southbound off-ramp as it comes down to Cimarron Street. Note that two right-turn lanes will provide access to westbound Cimarron. The more perpendicular one is intended to ease access to a new "shortcut" left turn off Cimarron before Eighth Street (as explained in the article). The off-ramp's left-turn lane will lead onto eastbound Cimarron. A stoplight (not shown in the rendering) will control that traffic flow.
Courtesy of Kraemer/TSH, project contractor
       Surprisingly minimal driving impacts are foreseen during the construction of the Cimarron/I-25 interchange - including virtually none at all for almost the first year of the project.
       This was revealed in the schedule information released at the public open house May 26 at City Auditorium.
       “That's a good benefit to drivers,” commented Jimmy Luthye, a spokesperson for the project contractor, Kraemer/TSH. “And there will be no super-extended closures. We'll have some overnight, but not too many of those.”
       Overseen by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the project started in April and is slated for completion in December 2017. It will replace the existing interchange, which is roughly 50 years old, along with all its ramps. Additional work will realign I-25 to the west - about 80 feet at the interchange itself - to lessen the current curve between it and the Tejon/I-25 interchange.
       It is this realignment that makes much of the friendly traffic scenario possible, based on information presented at the project open house. The southbound side can be built just to the west while the old bridges are still being used. After that, for several months from 2016 into 2017,
Eileen Healy and Bill Koerner (foreground) of the area's Trails and Open Space Coalition discuss the trails plan for the new Cimarron/I-25 interchange during the open house May 26 in City Auditorium.
Westside Pioneer photo
both directions will use the new southbound segment while the northbound side gets built.
       A similar strategy will be used for Cimarron (also Highway 24) going under the interstate. A slightly different alignment - related to having the interstate and Cimarron intersect in a more perpendicular fashion - will allow early, offline work on at least part of the new street. The anticipated result, according to Mark Olsen, project manager for the contractor team, Kraemer/TSH, is the avoidance of any full closures of Cimarron during the project.
       However, slowdowns can be expected at times, particularly on the interstate during Phase 2 (November 2016 to June 2017), as a result of narrower lanes and shoulders from both directions temporarily sharing the newly built southbound lanes, and on Cimarron during Phases 1 and 2.
       The project will complete the three-laning of I-25 through Colorado Springs, a process that started in the early 1990s and nearly finished with the 2005-2007 COSMIX project.
       The interstate through town was built at two lanes when it opened around 1960. According to CDOT information, the average volume then was about 8,500 vehicles a day; now, it is well over 100,000.
       Another revelation at the open house was that the actual contract amount is $113 million - compared with the $116.1 million previously announced by CDOT. According to Karen Rowe, CDOT Region Transportation Director, and Dave Watt, CDOT's resident engineer for this area, the reduction was an outgrowth of discussions/negotiations in choosing a final contractor team from three finalists. One savings resulted from
Elected officials, state and local government employees, representatives from the contracting and subcontracting companies, the media and random citizens convene for the Cimarron/I-25 groundbreaking ceremony May 27 in America the Beautiful Park. The Julie Penrose Fountain is in the near background; in the far background (at left) is the vent stack for the Drake Power Plant, which is a short distance southeast of the interchange. The groundbreaking location was chosen purely for ceremonial reasons because the originally planned site, which was within the project area, was too wet from recent rains.
Westside Pioneer photo
the perpendicular layout, which requires less material for bridge construction than if it remained angled.
       Kraemer is the construction side of the team, TSH the design side. Both have done work with CDOT previously.
       A unique part of the Kraemer/TSH proposal is a new connector road to be built through the 5-acre former Express Inn property - now empty and owned by CDOT - south and east of Eighth and Cimarron. State and local officials believe that the shortcut - which they call a “quadrant” - will relieve enough traffic at that busy intersection to alleviate for at least 10 years the perceived need for an Eighth/Cimarron interchange. See previous story in the Westside Pioneer.
       Quadrant construction will start early in the project, with the goal of having it operational before summer 2016, plans show.
       Other major changes that interstate users will see with the project:
       - Longer on-ramps and off-ramps.
       - Single-point urban interface (SPUI) traffic style
Mark Olsen (center), project manager with the Kraemer/TSH contractor team, is seen in conversation during the Cimarron/I-25 open house May 26.
Westside Pioneer photo
for Cimarron under I-25 - which will mean just one stoplight to get through (instead of the current two). A present example is the Garden of the Gods Road/I-25 interchange.
       - Three left-turn lanes from the northbound off-ramp onto westbound Cimarron. The volume of traffic getting off at the present off-ramp is so high that vehicles often back up onto the shoulder of I-25.
       - Stoplight on westbound Cimarron, west of the interchange, with a double-left opportunity onto the quadrant segment. Another stoplight will be installed where the quadrant hits Eighth Street, lined up with the access to the 37,000-square-foot Colorado Place shoppping center (the one that includes La Casita restaurant).
       - Southbound off-ramp going straight down to the north side of Cimarron Street (replacing the current loop around to to the south side.
       - Two right-turn possibilities at the base of that ramp - one of them allowing easier access to outside lanes on westbound Cimarron to more easily get into the left-turn lanes for the quadrant to Eighth Street.
       - Rerouting of the Midland Trail east of Eighth. It will follow the north bank of Fountain Creek, connecting with the Greenway Trail near the confluence with Monument Creek in America the Beautiful Park. The idea is to make better use of natural waterways, CDOT officials have said. Other new trail connections from the Midland will be built - one along Chestnut Street to Colorado Avenue and the other to Eighth Street following Fountain Creek (including going under a new Cimarron Street to be built over the creek at that point).
       Not as obvious (except during construction) will be the five new traffic bridges over Fountain Creek (two on the interstate itself, plus the northbound on-ramp, southbound off-ramp and Cimarron west of the interchange); and one pedestrian bridge (Greenway Trail).
       Overall, the Kraemer/TSH project schedule
Workers are seen in an area just west of I-25 and about a quarter-mile south of the current Cimarron interchange that's been cleared of vegetation. The clearing was needed because, as part of the project, about half a mile of I-25 south of the interchange will be realigned west to lessen the sharpness of a curve in the interstate.
Westside Pioneer photo
calls for four phases, defined as 0, 1, 2 and 3. Below are the main work efforts and traffic changes in each phase, summarized from contractor information. (Note: “SB” means southbound, “EB” eastbound, “NB” northbound and “WB” westbound.)
       - Phase 0 (now until March 2016) - WORK: Quadrant; utility and fiber optic lines; storm sewers; SB on-ramp and off-ramp (both continuing into Phase 1); temporary SB off-ramp; EB Cimarron Street (bridge and paving). TRAFFIC CHANGES: Closures in the project area of the Midland Trail (until approximately June 2017) and Bear Creek Trail (for about three months beginning in late summer 2015).
       - Phase 1 (March 2016 to November 2016) - WORK: SB I-25 in project area, including its interchange bridge; SB on-ramp and off-ramp; NB off-ramp (continuing into Phase 2); temporary NB on-ramp; paving at east and west tie-ins to the new Cimarron Street alignment under I-25; Cimarron bridges; trails. TRAFFIC CHANGES: Quadrant opens;
The schedule revealed at the May 26 open house by Kraemer/TSH and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) shows the expectation of having the interchange operational by September 2017. CDOT has officially announced December 2017.
Courtesy of Kraemer/TSH
temporary SB off-ramp; Cimarron Street traffic will shift to the new EB alignment west of the interchange.
       - Phase 2 (November 2016 to June 2017) - WORK: NB I-25 in project area, including its interchange bridge; NB on-ramp and off-ramp; lighting, signals and signs on Cimarron; stream improvements; trails; aesthetics and landscaping. TRAFFIC CHANGES: NB/SB vehicles will share lanes on project's new SB I-25; temporary NB on-ramp; SB on-ramp and off-ramp will open; Cimarron's new roadway alignment under I-25 will open, but temporarily retain the “diamond” arrangement that needs two stoplights; temporary NB on-ramp; Midland Trail will reopen.
       - Phase 3 (June 2017 to September 2017) - WORK: median barrier; lighting; striping; new trail alignments; stream improvements; landscaping and aesthetics. TRAFFIC CHANGES: NB I-25 moves to its own newly built NB lanes. NB on-ramp and off-ramp will open. Cimarron under I-25 will transform to its final SPUI version.
       - Untitled time frame (September 2017 to December 2017) - WORK: finish-up, as needed. TRAFFIC CHANGES: Final configuration of project will be open to motorists. No traffic impacts foreseen.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 5/29/15; Transportation Cimarron/I-25)

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