Bijou/I-25 bridge detour decision nears

       Rockrimmon Constructors wants to hear what people think about its ideas for detouring southbound traffic through the near Westside when the I-25/ Bijou Street bridge temporarily closes from January to October 2007.
       The private company, which is contracting with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for the COSMIX I-25 widening project, has narrowed the possibilities to three options.
       The idea is to provide a smooth-but-low-impact detour - particularly for I-25 southbounders who typically use Bijou to get downtown in the morning. Each option has its pros and cons, although Rockrim-mon sees more advantages with Option 3, company spokesperson Bill Badger explained at a meeting of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) July 27.
       In that option, Rockrimmon would create a temporary off-ramp south of Bijou that would feed vehicles onto Pikes Peak Avenue. From there, the detour would lead motorists west to Walnut Street, where they would turn left (south) to get to Colorado Avenue, which could take them under I-25 and into the downtown.
       The main plusses of Option 3 are keeping the exit away from the Bijou work zone and getting cars over to Colorado Avenue with the least amount of impact on the homes in that area or on the Department of Human Services complex, Badger pointed out.
       Still to be worked out in that scenario is a right of way issue (the ramp curving into Pikes Peak Avenue would clip about three spaces out of a parking lot), loss of on- street parking next to the Coca-Cola plant on Pikes Peak Avenue, the need to upgrade the intersection of Pikes Peak and Walnut - possibly with a temporary double left turn for cars going south to Colorado Avenue.
       Another impact of Option 3 would be the closure of the I-25 southbound on-ramp from Bijou by Sept. 5. This would be necessary because designs show part of that being used for the detour off-ramp; also, Rockrimmon needs to address several utility lines under that ramp, Badger explained.
       Both Options 1 and 2 would allow motorists to keep using the existing I-25 southbound off-ramp - turning right (west) onto Bijou. This could mean occasional conflicts with the nearby bridge construction, Badger noted.
       Option 1 would have the least turns, with vehicles going left off Bijou at Spruce Street and continuing south to Colorado. But a key problem is that the COSMIX project includes rebuilding the Colorado Avenue bridge and, in conjunction with that work, closing off Spruce so it no longer connects to the avenue. So keeping Spruce open would stretch out the time frame for the I-25 work around Colorado Avenue. Also, Rockrim-mon engineers want to avoid directing traffic past the Human Services buildings, which have numerous pedestrians, Badger said.
       Like Option 1, the Option 2 detour would direct motorists left onto Spruce from Bijou. They would go right (west) on Pikes Peak Avenue and then left at Walnut and on to Colorado Avenue, as in Option 3. The main drawbacks are the Spruce Street pedestrian issue, plus more turns than Options 1 or 3.
       OWN did not vote on the options, but offered to help get the word out to Westsiders.
       Despite favoring Option 3, Rockrimmon engineers have agreed with their CDOT and city counterparts to seek public input before taking action. The rough deadline for people to provide feedback is mid-August, Badger said after the OWN meeting.
       Some preliminary work has taken place around both the Bijou and Colorado bridges, but the project in that area is slated to get underway in earnest starting Sept. 5.
       Engineers can provide no confident estimates of how many vehicles will get off at Bijou when the bridge is closed and the downtown access becomes less direct. “It's a guessing game,” Badger said.
       Added George Hayward, a public information consultant to CDOT, “People will find their own streets. We rely on that, but we don't encourage it.”
       The new Bijou interchange will have a more efficient alignment than the current bridge, according to engineers, and - with input from local residents and business people - a more attractive appearance.
       COSMIX is a $150 million road widening and bridge-replacement project that covers a 12-mile segment of I-25.
       For more information or to leave a comment, call 1-877-276-6491 or go to the website: Cosmixproject.com.

Westside Pioneer article