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With new delay, Fillmore interchange project to overlap with Cimarron/I-25 by over half a year

Afternoon rush-hour traffic flows through the Fillmore/I-25 interchange. The view looks northeast from Chestnut Street, looking over the stormwater detention pond that was built in conjunction with last year's Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority project that realigned Chestnut and widened Fillmore just west of I-25. The interchange is to be replaced in a Colorado Department of Transportation project that's now expected to start by mid- to late September.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The new Fillmore/I-25 interchange, which state engineers had predicted less than a year ago would be under construction by last February, has run into another delay.
       “The way it looks now, construction will start in mid-September or the end of September,” Don Garcia, project manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), said in an interview June 11. “I think that's pretty solid.”
       If the February 2014 start date had held up, based on the anticipated 14-to-16-month work time frame, the Fillmore interchange would have been finished, or nearly so, before the Cimarron/I-25 project a few miles to the south got going.
       Instead, for a half to three-quarters of a year, motorists are likely to encounter two simultaneous interchange projects. Cimarron is scheduled to start in an as-yet-undetermined month in the spring of 2015 and last until July 2017. See article on recent Cimarron/I-25 open house.
       Garcia said he doesn't think the roadway conflict will be as bad as it sounds. “We'll just have to have the contractors coordinate with each other, so they both can't have closures at the same time. We have a specification that they have to coordinate.”
       At Fillmore/I-25, CDOT has already committed to keep the bridge open during the project, but at Cimarron/I-25 CDOT is talking about closures during parts of the project on the northbound on-ramp and on Cimarron east of the interchange. An unknown is how interstate motorists passing through will be affected.
       The Fillmore schedule slippage has occurred little by little over the past several months, as CDOT engineers sought to cope with unexpected issues. None of the delays are related to funding or design, both of which have been in place for the better part of the year.
       The latest delay, pushing construction back from August, stems from a new mandate by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The agency, which is providing about 80 percent of the project funding, told CDOT about a month ago it needs to put together a financial plan for the I-25 corridor. This is based on a determination by FHWA that Colorado is doing major work on the local I-25 corridor and therefore has to define what it's built and what it plans to build and to explain the cost aspects, Garcia said.
       Other surprises in getting Fillmore to construction involved CDOT's Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program and the ensuing intergovernmental agreement (IGA) process. A legal document, an IGA is needed because the $13 million project is being partially funded through a RAMP grant to the city. But the program is new, with grants going to cities all over the state, and the paperwork took longer than originally expected. Completion did not occur until this month, and the IGA process couldn't start until the RAMP part was done.
       Realizing that, Garcia thought he could save some time by managing the IGA effort while advertising for bids from potential project contractors. However, he has since learned that the IGA has to be completed before the advertising can start, he said.
       A formal vote to approve the IGA is still needed by the Colorado Springs City Council. The matter is scheduled for the June 24 meeting.
       Advertising for bids is now planned to start around mid-July, Garcia said.
       The Fillmore/I-25 scope has not changed. As previously announced, the project will replace the current interchange (built more than 50 years ago), improve and/or extend the ramps and tie in with the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority project last year that realigned Chestnut Street.
       The project will feature a relatively new type of layout, called a diverging diamond, in which traffic will switch to opposite sides going over the bridge (a la driving in England). According to CDOT, this design will reduce construction costs and make left turns safer. More detail on the diverging diamond design can be found in a Westside Pioneer article from last March.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 6/12/14; Transportation: Fillmore/I-25)

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