I-25: Colorado Ave. bridge added to COSMIX; aesthetics questions raised

       In unexpected news, the contractor for the I-25 widening project (COSMIX) has decided to include a replacement bridge over Colorado Avenue in conjunction with the Bijou bridge replacement that will get underway next year.
       However, no meetings are scheduled at this time to provide opportunities for neighborhood design input on either of these projects, despite Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) members' concerns about how their appearance will affect visitors' perceptions of the Westside.
       Dave Poling, COSMIX project manger for the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT), announced the Colorado Avenue bridge inclusion as part of an update on overall design progress to City Council May 24. He said the contractor, Rockrimmon Constructors, decided it was affordable enough to be included in the scope of COSMIX.
       Poling said afterward that work on the avenue's bridge design will not start until mid- to late summer, but it has already been determined that the I-25 bridge deck will have room for eight lanes (only six will be used at first) while the width of the Colorado Avenue underpass will remain at four lanes.
       The bridge's appearance, he said, is not likely to differ much, in terms of color and style, from the underpasses at the Tejon/Nevada or Woodmen interchanges that were built in recent years, or the new Bijou bridge.
       Although stressing that moving traffic efficiently is the main goal, he said the bridge's appearance will not be “plain jane, run of the mill. There is some level of architectural detail.”
       Poling added that there could “potentially” be a neighborhood meeting on the subject at which “we'll share what that bridge looks like and get community input.” He did not have a prediction of when that might occur.
       A similar statement for the Bijou bridge project was presented by Robert Burch, a CDOT resident engineer, at the May 12 OWN meeting. When County Commissioner (former OWN board member) Sallie Clark asked about aesthetics and neighborhood involvement, saying she thought these were “very important” issues, he said he would “pass on” such concerns to COSMIX engineers.
       Burch reassured the roughly 25 meeting attendees that the Bijou interchange, the design of which is just getting underway, will be “one of the nicer if not the nicest bridges” in the project. “It gets viewed from every direction,” he said.
       A consideration for some Westsiders is that while Bijou has an important interchange and is a key downtown traffic carrier, it becomes a minor street just a few blocks west of I-25 and, as a result, lacks the “gateway” impact of Colorado Avenue as it goes west under the interstate and continues through Old Colorado City to Manitou Springs.
       Board member Dave Hughes said, “it's an ugly overpass now… just a dark hole” that attracts transients. He urged CDOT to do a more sensitive job on the new one.
       OWN President Jim Fenimore said the historic uniqueness of the Westside ought to count in any CDOT design plans. “This is a different part of town,” he said. “The neighborhood should be looked at in a different light. I'm concerned about the traffic flow, but I would like to see consideration of the aesthetic characteristics.”
       The Bijou/ Colorado Avenue work is scheduled to go from summer 2006 until the end of 2007, with the Bijou bridge closed from January to October 2007.
       Before the announcement about Colorado Avenue, its bridge replacement had not been expected to occur until a later, as-yet- unfunded $400 million I-25 upgrade phase that will include new interchanges at Fillmore and Cimarron streets.

Westside Pioneer article