Fillmore plans focus on Chestnut

       A study of traffic congestion in the Fillmore Street area has begun focusing on the half-century-old alignment of Chestnut Street just west of the I-25 interchange.

In a view west up the Fillmore Hill, the intersection of Chestnut and Fillmore streets, just west of I-25, presents a sometimes dizzying array of vehicle movement.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Two alternatives have “bubbled to the top,” Tim Roberts of City Traffic Engineering told a July 14 meeting of residents from the Holland Park (north of Fillmore) and Mesa Springs (south of Fillmore) neighborhoods.
       Both alternatives include regrading the terrain west of the interstate to allow Chestnut to run under Fillmore, thus eliminating the current conflict. Also, cars going either direction on Chestnut would be redirected to a new stoplight at Parker Street a few hundred feet farther west, and Parker would be extended north, with a connection to Chestnut north of Fillmore.
       Roberts said that cost estimates are being developed for both alternatives, which are temporarily labeled 1 and 6 (out of seven original alternatives). The expectation is to use $6.6 million already earmarked in Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) funds to improve Fillmore Street, but “we don't want to build something we can't afford.”

ALTERNATIVE 1. One of the two currently favored conceptual upgrades for Fillmore Street just west of I-25,with Chestnut going under Fillmore. See description in story at left. Note: The streets at upper left, extending Parker north and connecting to Chestnut north of Fillmore, do not currently exist. They would need to be built through private property and as such would require owner approval.
Courtesy of Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and City of Colorado Springs

ALTERNATIVE 6. The second of two currently favored conceptual upgrades for Fillmore Street just west of I-25, with Chestnut going under Fillmore. See more details in story on Page 4. Note: The streets at upper left, extending Parker north and connecting to Chestnut north of Fillmore, do not currently exist. They would need to be built through private property and as such would require owner approval.
Courtesy of Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and City of Colorado Springs

       Ironically, the study has also brought out new information that runs counter to the RTA plan, which had been formulated before the election that approved the authority and its 1-cent sales tax in 2004. At that time, believing the biggest need there was to widen Fillmore to six lanes to increase flow and ease access, planners had made it an “A” project (certain of funding) while another project, extending Centennial Boulevard from Fillmore to the Fontanero/I-25 interchange, was only ranked “C” (for which no funding is likely to be available before the RTA sunsets in 2015).
       But it's now perceived that, in the years since 2004, the need for the Centennial extension has grown in importance. “Nobody foresaw this development that's coming,” Roberts said at the meeting. Elaborating in a follow-up e-mail this week, he writes:
       “To date, the current public process has shown a desire to complete the Centennial Boulevard connection first.” However, Roberts adds, “we have to spend monies as voted on by the community. We have no choice but to spend the PPRTA dollars on Fillmore Street. My study is also looking at public/private partnerships to help identify a means to fund the Centennial Boulevard construction.”
       Two other Chestnut-area improvement scenarios are also being analyzed for costs in the Fillmore study. These are an Alternative 3 (which would also use Parker), plus the original RTA plan for widening Fillmore, Roberts said.
       A big reason that widening may not be the best option now is that even if traffic flows well it tends to back up at the Fillmore interchange, and Chestnut adds to that problem. The RTA money could be used for a Chestnut fix because it would still be a Fillmore project, Roberts explained.
       A new Fillmore interchange was to be part of the I-25 widening (COSMIX) in 2004, but had to be omitted because of insufficent funds. Now, no date sooner than 2020 is being predicted for that work.
       Cost is not the only factor in deciding on a design alterntative for Fillmore. Roberts said he needs to meet “one on one” with residents in the older neighborhood along Parker Street south of Fillmore. He said he also has to work out an arrangement with the planned, 14-acre Palmer House commercial center northwest of Fillmore and Chestnut streets to allow a new street through the center to continue Parker north of Fillmore, plus another to connect Parker to Chestnut (also north of Fillmore). Such a configuration is shown on all three alternatives.
       Alternative 1 would have the least impact on the current Parker neighborhood (it would become a cul-de-sac just south of Fillmore; access from the main street would still be allowed to the businesses at the Parker corner). Chestnut traffic going either way would have to turn onto the new Palmer House streets to access Fillmore from Parker. This prompted questions at the meeting about inconveniencing motorists going north on Chestnut, who now can simply turn right or left at the Fillmore stoplight.
       Alternative 6 would simplify access for northbound Chestnut by creating a new, “jug-handle” access south of Fillmore to curve Chestnut traffic up to Parker. This scenario also shows a Parker cul-de-sac; however, only about half of Parker between Fillmore and the next street south (Taylor) would be protected that way. The northern half would be part of the new connection.
       Alternative 3 shows the same type of Chestnut-to-Parker-to-Fillmore connection, with the difference that Chestnut Street itself would dead-end on either side of Fillmore, meaning that an even higher volume of traffic would end up using Parker.
       To have Chestnut traffic go under Fillmore (in Alternatives 1 and 6), grading would be needed to raise Fillmore, starting around Parker. That would make it possible to put a stoplight at Parker, Roberts summarized. There are no lights now between Chestnut and Centennial because traffic engineers believe the Fillmore hill, as currently configured, is too steep for any stoplights, especially in icy conditions.
       The $100,000 study is being funded with $65,000 from the Palmer House development group, and $35,000 from the RTA, Roberts said. The effort to date has involved numerous meetings with neighborhood associations in the area and with their representatives. The goal, according to Roberts, is to get as many ideas as possible from the people who live closest to the area being studied.
       A public meeting, intended for all interested groups and citizens. will be scheduled, once the cost estimates are in, Roberts said.

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