Challenge to CDOT traffic numbers
‘Artificial loading’ in Hwy 24 projections?

       In the year 2030, jobs will be up 20 percent along West Colorado Avenue, yet some of the street's afternoon rush-hour traffic will be lower than it is today. At the same time, the number of cars coming down Limit Street to Highway 24 will have increased 328 percent - from a neighborhood that currently has no room for growth.
       These are among several traffic-number “anomalies,” as Welling Clark terms them, that are being used by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in citing a cumulative 66 percent Highway 24 traffic increase to help justify a proposed major expansion for the road between I-25 and Manitou Springs.
       Clark, the president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), presented a traffic-number analysis at the Aug. 16 meeting of the Working Group.
       The informal body consists of area business and civic leaders who have been meeting with CDOT this summer in hopes of finding a lower-impact alternative to the broad expansion CDOT has been proposing.
       The CDOT traffic numbers, which have also been accepted by the City of Colorado Springs, were initially generated by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG). A representative of the regional agency had been invited to the Aug. 16 meeting, but reportedly had a scheduling conflict.
       PPACG is now being asked to respond to Clark's analysis in time for the next Working Group meeting Wednesday, Sept. 11.
       Another issue Clark raised was the volume of traffic that PPACG showed on certain streets. In several cases, the number of anticipated vehicles on certain streets in an hour far exceeded how many is theoretically allowed based on the agency's interpretation of the maximum for different street types.
       Yet another point involved potential side street widenings - and as a result, private property impacts - based on 2030 models. For example, the PPACG model for 21st Street at Colorado Avenue shows four lanes across 21st on the north side of the avenue and five on the south. There are only three lanes on either side today.
       Other stats that Clark extrapolated: An area that consists almost entirely of Bear Creek Park and the Skyway residential area is expected to produce 202 percent more jobs than it does today. And, the Midland neighborhood, which is nearly all developed and nearly all residential, is projected to have more than 50 percent more jobs in the year 2030.
       In his recommendations, Clark asked for a re-examination of the data that led to the job-growth projections, noting that they “appear not to correlate with the available land.” He also sought a harder look at the “Highway 24 road network model and an explanation for the unexpected reduction in Colorado Avenue traffic.” The impression these numbers leave, he said, is that there is an “artificial loading” of traffic onto Highway 24.
       “If we're going to spend a quarter of a billion dollars [estimated CDOT numbers for the expansion], it's better to fix the numbers now than later,” Clark said.
       One monkey wrench in his analysis, as pointed out by government engineers at the meeting, is that by the end of this year the state is required to start using year 2035 traffic projections. “Do you spend time fixing old numbers or planning with new numbers?” asked Craig Blewitt, city transportation manager.
       In other matters at the meeting, Mary Jo Vobejda, lead engineer for CH2M HILL (the chief CDOT consulting firm in the Highway 24 planning effort), critiqued Clark's Modified Westsiders' Plan, stating that the narrow overpasses he had proposed would have larger impacts than he had anticipated. For example, at 21st Street, she said the bridge ramps would extend nearly to Broadway Street on the south and Cucharras on the north and would still mean the removal of Angler's Covey, which Clark had hoped to save.
       Input on the alternative is being requested from the public at a meeting Thursday, Aug. 17 at the Gold Hill Substation, 955 W. Moreno Ave., starting at 7 p.m.
       The next CDOT meeting is scheduled Thursday, Aug. 24 at the West Intergenerational Center, 25 N. 20th St., from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Westside Pioneer article