CDOT begins sharing Hwy 24 draft EA plans with area entities; public to see document this fall

       The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has begun presenting the “draft EA” aspects of its plans for the Westside Highway 24 widening project.

The close-by interchanges for Cimarron Street/Highway 24 at Eighth Street and I-25 are shown in this proposed traffic-flow upgrade by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The highway would go over Eighth Street. The looped "flyover" (right, in blue) from eastbound Cimarron would allow free access to northbound I-25. The northbound I-25 off-ramp currently backs up frequently; the plan would ease that problem by providing three left-turn lanes for cars going west on Cimarron. The dotted lines under the I-25 interchange show a traffic-movement design like that at Garden of the Gods/I-25, which has proven efficient, according to CDOT.
Courtesy of CDOT

       “Our analysis is completed and we are crafting the environmental assessment [EA],” Dave Watt of CDOT told an Aug. 3 meeting of the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) during a presentation with project consultant Maryjo Vobejda in a presentation that lasted about a half-hour.
       A public meeting, as yet unscheduled, is foreseen this fall when the draft EA should be ready for review, said Watt, the lead engineer on the planning effort. Assuming no show-stoppers come out of that meeting, the final EA will go to the Federal Highway Adminis-tration to sanction the plans as direction for future construction, according to the project schedule.
       Based on the proposal to CTAB, the draft EA will contain no major changes from the CDOT “Recommended Alternative” released in 2008. A product of Westside public meetings and CDOT studies going back to 2004, plans call for widening the highway to six lanes (calling it the “Midland Expressway”) with a 50-mph speed limit between I-25 and Ridge Road. There would be full interchanges at 8th and 21st streets, expanded at-grade intersections at 26th and 31st streets and a no- access overpass at Ridge. The draft EA will also contain information about a potential greenway along the highway and nearby Fountain Creek that would use existing space and some that would be acquired in expanding the right of way, as well as about asthetic touches intended to give the construction some style.
       There is currently no funding for the project, which is expected to relieve congestion on the highway and, as a beneficial side effect, reduce “cut-through” traffic through Pleasant Valley and along Fillmore. according to Watt. Anticipating an improvement in the currently limited state transportation budget, Watt told CTAB that construction could start as early as 2016, although the work would be “phased in over many years.”
       The study was expanded to also look at the 2004 EA for the Cimarron/I-25 interchange, which resulted in recommended design changes. This engineering was done because of the proximity of the Eighth Street crossing and the need for traffic flowing smoothly between the two interchanges, CDOT planners have said.
       However, the freeway interchange is not technically part of the Midland Expressway EA, and it too has no current funding source, despite the high priority attached to it by area leaders .
       Colorado Springs City Council is included on the CDOT presentation list. Watt said he plans to go before that elected body in mid-September.
       CTAB's concerns, reflected in a recommendation that will go to City Council, did not pertain to design or costs. While voting in favor of the CDOT proposal, CTAB members asked that consideration be given to adding bus stops and bike lanes on the proposed new highway. Vobejda provided information that a city bus route now goes up Colorado Avenue and that the project intent is to have westbound cyclists (those using the bike lanes on Cimarron/ Highway 24 east of the interstate) turn onto the paved Midland Trail, which - by passing under the intersections - will have no stops between there and Ridge Road. But Watt and Vobejda said they would look into both the bus-stop and bike-lane possibilities.

Westside Pioneer article