Cimarron/I-25 not in draft TIP, but design could be

       Prominent by its absence on the region's draft 2013-2018 Transportation Im-provement Plan (TIP) is a new Cimarron/I-25 interchange.
       That doesn't mean it's forgotten.
       But it does indicate a new staff strategy for the project, which for years has been one of the top unfunded regional transportation priorities.
       The interchange, over half a century old, would have been part of the COSMIX I-25 widening project five years ago if not for lack of funding. Ever since, the PPACG board (consisting of elected officials from area governments) has been looking unsuccessfully for ways to get the work done.
       According to Craig Casper, transportation director for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), the latest plan is to once again seek the full amount (currently estimated at $95 million) to build the project all at once. This appears possible under new federal rules, which would let local governments spend a multiyear funding allocation in one year - assuming such an allocation occurred - when otherwise it would have to be spread out over several, Casper explained in an interview this week.
       In contrast, the PPACG board had decided last spring that Cimarron might have a better chance if pieced out, one ramp at a time. The body even voted this year to make a new southbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramp for the interchange the top two priorities for the region.
       Also affecting the new strategy, Casper said, is that a preliminary survey by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has recently found “topographical issues” in the area of the interchange, signalling that the one-ramp-at-a-time approach would lead to costly “throwaway” improvements, which would result in the entire construction cost rising well above $95 million.
       He said the staff plan plan now is to design the entire interchange first - not only because of topography but to make sure the project ties in with separate (also unfunded) plans by CDOT to remake Cimarron/ Eighth Street into an interchange.
       Asked about the Cimarron/I-25 interchange and its lack of mention in the TIP, Casper pointed to a TIP category called “Regional Priorities,” which includes a line item totalling $21,508,000 for 2014-2018 under the description of “projects to be determined.” Once the federal rules are fully understood, Casper said he “would be stunned” if some of that pool of money was not used for the Cimarron design work, which he expects will cost in the range of $5 million to $10 million.

Westside Pioneer article