Home Page

Proof that history doesn't die - I-25 and its local interchanges date back to 1960

This is the cover of the booklet that the Colorado Department of Highways published to commemorate the official opening of the "Monument Valley Freeway." This was the name given to the Colorado Springs segment of what was then US Highway 87 (which would later become I-25). On the left side of the cover is a graphic showing the north-south route, with renderings at each of the interchanges - all of which still exist today in some form or another.
Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District
With I-25 interchange projects going on simultaneously at Cimarron and Fillmore, it kindles memories of when the old structures - as well as the freeway itself - were brand new.
       Adding historical relevancy, the basic freeway layout from back then (more than 55 years ago) is still in place. This includes all the interchange locations that were established for Colorado Springs' “Monument Valley Freeway” (as noted in an Editor's Desk column that focuses on the original Cimarron effort).
       A booklet by the Colorado Department of Highways, dated July 1, 1960, provides numerous facts about the project.
       For starters, it wasn't actually an interstate yet. The Monument Valley Freeway was initially US Highway 87 through Colorado. It was part of the route established for the national interstate system, but interstates didn't technically exist in 1960. Does anybody know when the name in Colorado was changed to I-25? That's one fact that remains elusive.
       Here are some informational bits from the booklet:
       - The interstate system was created in 1944 by an act of Congress, which included designating the basic line for US 87 through Colorado.
       - As state and Pikes Peak region officials fine-tuned the US 87 plan in the late 1940s, three possible routes were considered through Colorado Springs. One was the “Union Avenue Line,” through what was then the “eastern edge” of the city. A second possibility was the “Shooks Run Line,” using the right of way for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad through what was then considered the “eastern section of the city” (as far east as Prospect Street, as far west as Nevada). The third proposal, the one eventually chosen, was the “Walnut Street line,” designed to go through what was then the center of the city. The booklet quotes a report that the Walnut Line was considered best “as related to through traffic, local traffic and vehicular movement within the city.”
       - Considerable credit for moving the project forward is given to Robert Hendee of Colorado Springs, who in 1954 “was appointed to his first term on the newly created Colorado Highway Commission and in his quiet, friendly way began a thorough study of the proposal.”
       - Because much of the city's center was already developed, numerous people living or working within the planned freeway swath were displaced. The booklet states that the Colorado Department of Highways (a predecessor to the current Colorado Department of Transportation), bought a total of 502.9 acres in 321 separate parcels from 236 owners at an overall cost of $3,462,690.
       - Grading work started in November 1955.
       - As work continued into 1960, the four-lane freeway opened incrementally. “As quickly as a section of the Freeway was completed, it was opened to traffic,” the booklet states.
       - One of the project subcontractors is a familiar Westside name - “Pinello (Nick) Contractor.”
       - The length of the project (from Woodmen Road to present-day Circle Drive) was 11.9 miles. (Note: It originally had two lanes each way, but left space in the median to add a lane in either direction - and this was accomplished between the early '90s and mid-2000s.)
       - The total cost of the Monument Valley Freeway was $12,206,682 (including right of way). By contrast, that's just under the cost to replace the Fillmore interchange today.
       - Other numbers from that project include 38 bridges, 4,880,000 cubic yards of dirt excavated, 47,867 lineal feet of pipe laid and 56,836 lineal feet of electric conduit.
       - Planners estimated that initial traffic would be 7,500 vehicles a day between Bijou and Cimarron and 6,500 between Cimarron and Nevada. (Note: The estimate of traffic now through the Cimarron interchange is more than 100,000 a day.)
       The booklet includes these upbeat comments - “The Freeway was designed to provide the utmost in safety, convenience and usefulness and was planned in accordance with the latest standards for the urban highway development on the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways… The Freeway belongs to the Public and it is the hope of the Colorado Department of Highways that it will be used wisely and well.”

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/8/15, updated 6/9/15; Transportation: Cimarron/I-25)

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)