State draws from public ideas: ‘Shortcut’ from 14th to 21st among favored proposals

       Although they may not pacify those who think the state-proposed Westside Highway 24 expansion is oversized, changes to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) plans in recent months show the agency and its consultants are at least open to suggestions from the public.
       Such readiness was stated by CDOT representatives at separate meetings this week with the Colorado Springs City Council and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board.
       For the most part, however, the plans on the table continue to be basically those that were shown at the last public open house May 10, with no reduction in the width of the roadway, which is generally four lanes each way from the interstate to Eighth Street and three lanes from there to Manitou. The footprint could expand even more, depending on how much shoulder room state engineers may think is needed for a 50-mp expressway which is under study) instead of the 40-mph version that was shown May 10.
       After noting that 360 citizen ideas have come in since CDOT began the planning process a year and a half ago, CDOT project lead Dave Watt told City Council, “We have incorporated some citizen ideas into our design options and will continue to do so.”
       A few of the incorporated ideas had appeared in the Westside Pioneer's “Do no harm” plan last March (later published in summary form in OWN's Spring Westside Story).
       One of these was the proposal for a “shortcut” that would relieve traffic at the 21st Street interchange by putting a road from the state-proposed 14th Street interchange through the planned Gold Hill Mesa subdivision to the Broadway Street intersection with South 21st.
       Chuck Gustafson, a CDOT consulting engineer with Wilson & Company, said the shortcut could augment CDOT's previously devised proposal for a shortcut from 14th Street to South Eighth Street. Still needed are a detailed study of potential traffic flow and favorable discussions with Gold Hill Mesa developer Bob Willard (who has previously indicated a wish for an additional highway outlet for his subdivision). “We think it could reduce the traffic at 21st Street,” Gustafson said, in mentioning the possibility of the 14th-21st link to the PPACG board.
       Such relief would allow 21st to remain a signalized intersection, the Pioneer and OWN have contended in what's called the Westsiders' Option.
       If a light does not suffice, OWN has suggested a tight overpass (at 21st or 8th) that would be narrow enough to prevent the extensive business/home impacts of the CDOT design options. However, CDOT so far has insisted that an interchange is the only way the intersection can meet the federally prescribed “level of service” at that intersection in the year 2030.
       Other recently incorporated Westsiders' Option ideas (and in some cases others as well) include the following:
       A full-access interchange at Ridge Road (although considerably wider than the Pioneer proposed).
       Elimination of major expansion plans for the Manitou interchange.
       Elimination of the option to use 30th Street instead of 31st as the highway intersection/interchange.
       Keeping both the 31st and 26th street intersections at grade (although the design options for both of these are much wider than proposed by the Pioneer or OWN and includes medians that were not requested by 26th Street homeowners).
       A new CDOT design option (Option 21) - urged by the Downtown Partnership for visual reasons and by some members of the public for safety reasons - eliminates the higher of two proposed flyovers at I-25 in connection with the Eighth Street interchange. CDOT design options had proposed the higher flyover for northbound I- 25 traffic wanting to go west and bypass the Eighth Street interchange.
       The lower flyover, looping above the currently elevated I-25 (and part of the city's Martin Drake power plant property) would allow future westbound highway traffic to access northbound I-25 (in addition to a left under the interchange). Asked about this configuration at PPACG, Gustafson said the flyover would be needed to handle anticipated traffic in the year 2030.
       Also eliminated in this new option is a long southbound on-ramp to Highway 24 westbound. Like the higher flyover above, it would have been one of two off-ramps for such traffic. It also would have required a greater amount of real estate than the newer version.
       One of the two new 21st Street plans (Option 22) is a variation of the open house's Option 12 - the difference being that there is no access north of the highway on 18th Street. This was because studies showed a negative impact and no real gain by widening 18th through the established neighborhood to the avenue, according to Gustafson.
       The other new 21st Street plan (Option 23) is a slight variation of the single point urban interchange (SPUI) design in the existing Option 13.
       Members of the Colorado Springs City Council and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board saw graphics for the new plans at their meetings this week.

Westside Pioneer article