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Centennial extension project's 2016 start hinges on completion of Fillmore interchange

A northerly view from the end of a paved segment of the Centennial Boulevard extension north of Mesa Valley Road includes (in the background) a side view of the Veterans Affairs clinic being built near the road's intersection with Fillmore Street (not visible in photo). Beyond the paved segment is about a 500-foot dirt gap - which has clearly been driven over by some motor vehicles - leading uphill to another paved portion (which continues north to Fillmore, going past the clinic). City Engineering has concerns about the grade and the curve between these two paved sections, which may require tearing out parts of either one, pending a detailed design study due to start in 2015.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Work to complete the Centennial Boulevard extension won't start until the new Fillmore/I-25 interchange is in place.
       City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager made this pledge during a presentation at a recent meeting of the Mesa Springs Community Association.
       The four-lane, 1 ˝ -mile extension is less than half-finished now between Fillmore Street on the north and the Fontanero/I-25 interchange on the south. The design process on the voter-approved Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) project to complete the work is slated to begin sometime in 2015 and last a year. “Then we can get into construction,” Krager told the roughly 25 meeting attendees.
       The Fillmore interchange project is anticipated to start this September and continue until late 2015 or early 2016. However, the start date has already been delayed a few times since state engineers told a Mesa Springs meeting last fall that work was expected to commence in February of this year.
       In any case, “we won't start building Centennial until after the Fillmore project is done,” Krager announced. In explanation, she pointed out that the interchange work is occurring on the heels of the year-long Chestnut realignment project that ended last December. “We want to give you a break,” she said.
       However, it was clear from the comments and questions at the association meeting that several of the attendees were less concerned about work impacts as they were wishful that the project wasn't happening at all. Barbara Novey, the current Mesa Springs president, even commented that “some of us made sure it [the project] wasn't in the original RTA” (approved in 2004). At that time, the extension had already been in the planning stages for well over a decade.
       The opposition in Mesa Springs stems from residents' beliefs that the extension - going through open land west of the neighborhood - will downgrade their area due to increased traffic and noise.

Built about nine years ago and not used (or maintained) since then, the curb at the northeast corner of Mesa Valley Road and Centennial Boulevard shows signs of nature taking over again.
Westside Pioneer photo
       In earlier concepts, the plan had called for three lanes each way, but a compromise in the '90s reduced it to two lanes. Krager said the city now sees Centennial from Fillmore to Fontanero as a “low-key” road - a “secondary arterial” in engineering terms - with a speed limit of just 35 mph. A secondary arterial also uses less pavement because it doesn't need acceleration and deceleration lanes around intersections.
       Another pavement reduction will result from no parking being allowed. There will just be the vehicle lane and a six-foot space for bicycles between it and the curb, Krager said.
       Despite these cutbacks in project scope, the city transportation manager remains positive that the extension will have the capability to relieve traffic congestion at Fillmore/I-25 as well as on Chestnut Street. The city estimates the new road will handle about 15,000 cars a day.
       She pledged to involve the neighborhood as the design moves forward. “We want to build a Centennial that you can live with and not hate,” Krager said.
       Some of the key construction elements will need to be worked out in the design process, she elaborated in response to questions. These include:
       - The exact layout. The goal is to keep it as far from existing homes as possible, Krager said.
       - Access from the neighborhood to Sondermann Park. A pedestrian overpass has been discussed in the past.
       - The potential use of rubberized asphalt instead of pavement (to reduce tire noise).
       - The location of stoplights. Krager said one is likely at Van Buren Street. Other potential intersections are under review, with the city having to keep in mind development possibilities west of the extension (currently there aren't any).
       - The probable need to tear out parts of either or both segments that were previously built by separate developers north of Mesa Valley Road. One was finished in 2005, the other in 2008. There is a curve and an abrupt grade change between them. Asked after the meeting how much of the existing work would have to go, Krager said that will be have to be determined during the design process.
       She also reiterated a continuing promise from the city - not to open the extension to traffic until it's finished all the way. Otherwise, the fear has been that the neighborhood would get inundated with traffic streaming up or down Van Buren and Mesa Valley between Chestnut and Centennial.
       The project funding will come from $10.45 million approved by voters for Centennial as part of renewing the 1-cent sales tax for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) in the 2012 election.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 7/6/14; Transportation: Centennial Boulevard)

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