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COSMIX says good-bye to auxiliary lanes, Bijou southbound on-ramp

       Westside motorists are starting to feel the first real impacts of the I-25 widening project called COSMIX. Project contractor Rockrimmon Constructors plans to permanently shut down the Bijou Street bridge's southbound on-ramp the night of Monday, Sept. 18, and at the same time (or sooner, depending on schedule changes) close off both the north and southbound auxiliary lanes between Bijou and Cimarron/Highway 24.
       Eliminating these far right-hand lanes - necessary for COSMIX work in that area - means reduced merging space for drivers exiting at the southbound Cimarron exit as well as for northbound drivers getting on at the Cimarron on-ramp or getting off at Bijou. “It will be a quick sort of exit,” Badger said, and predicted congestion and delays at those locations.
       At the already-problematic Cimarron northbound on-ramp to I-25, Badger made a special appeal to northbound motorists: “Please allow traffic to merge. “
       Bijou's southbound on-ramp is lightly used, but there are still more than 3,300 drivers a day who have been using it, based on a late-July ramp count by Rockrimmon Constructors.
       Its closure will allow Rockrimmon to start digging it up to relocate or install water and stormwater lines underneath it. New work will include a 54-inch outfall that will eventually go under I-25 and into Monument Creek.
       The auxiliary lanes need to be shut off to allow the start this month of several sub-projects related to the replacement of the Bijou bridge as well as the widening of the interstate bridges over Colorado Avenue. These include building the northbound retaining wall along the historic WPA wall just east of I-25 and widening the southbound bridge over the Midland Trail, Badger said.
       Another impact of deleting the southbound ramp will be the loss of about 18 parking spaces along it. The first several hundred feet were designed like a city street when the interstate was built about 50 years ago, so the ramp actually connects with Kiowa Street on its way to I-25. The ramp spaces have typically been used by employees of the El Paso County Department of Human Services (DHS). Located on Spruce Street, the DHS facility has more employees (300) than it has off-street parking spaces (250), Badger said.
       For the time being, “we'll do the best we can with the parking situation,” said Linda Crawfis of DHS.
       For the future, the agency is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) on obtaining (when the project ends in late 2007) additional off-street parking at the site of the former Budget Rental southwest of the Bijou bridge, according to Dave Poling, CDOT's project manager for COSMIX. A stormwater- retention pond, a federal requirement on the project, had been tentatively planned at that site, but CDOT is looking at other ways of addressing that need, he said.
       Badger said a decision still has not been made on how to get traffic to the downtown after it gets off at Bijou while the bridge is closed in 2007. Three routes have been proposed, all ending up at Colorado Avenue. Rockrimmon Constructors prefers the option of building a temporary off-ramp south of the Bijou bridge, but City Traffic Engineer Dave Krauth said last week the city is still reviewing all the options and has asked Rockrimmon for more information on how it intends to safely get drivers from the ramp to Walnut Street to Colorado Avenue.
       As for concerns about overloading the avenue, Krauth said he does not believe that will happen. “Luckily, Colorado Avenue is under-utilized now,” he said. As a result, it should be able to take on the Bijou-detour traffic - not to mention motorists using the avenue to avoid the narrowed Cimarron-Conejos bridge east of I-25 - without becoming badly congested, he said.

Westside Pioneer article