Governor praises Bijou bridge plan
Meanwhile street, lane closures herald start of project construction in area

       Governor Bill Owens helped Colorado Springs leaders celebrate the aesethetically enhanced Bijou Street/I-25 interchange of the future in a ceremony Sept. 19.
       “This will replace an outdated, fossilized interchange with one you can be proud of,” Owens said in a brief ceremony at the east end of the current bridge, in a little grassy section of Monument Valley Park known as “triangle park.”
       Meanwhile, the actual work to make the new structure a reality was beginning in earnest this week - as evidenced by Spruce Street being closed off between Colorado and Pikes Peak Avenue and the previously announced elimination of Bijou's southbound on-ramp and I-25's auxiliary lanes between Bijou and Cimarron Street.
       More changes are scheduled to occur by Oct. 1: Colorado Avenue reduced to two lanes under the I-25 bridge and the Gateway Trail just east of the interstate detoured onto city streets south of Monument Valley Park.
       All this allows various construction projects related to both the Bijou and Colorado Avenue bridges as part of the $150 million I-25 widening project known as COSMIX.
       Starting Jan. 2, the old Bijou bridge(s) will be closed and removed, with the new one scheduled to be in place by Oct. 1, 2007.
       The interchange consists of two spans - one owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) that goes over I-25 and includes its on/off ramps, and the easterly one owned by the city that spans Fountain Creek and the railroad tracks.
       (To be historically correct, there are actually three current bridges. “The first Bijou bridge was originally built in 1937 as a two-lane bridge over Monument Creek and the railroad,” a COSMIX press release notes. “In 1954, a second bridge was added next to the first, providing four lanes of traffic to accommodate the growing city. Then in 1959, CDOT began building the Monument Valley Freeway, known today as Interstate 25 [which included] the existing bridge over I-25.”)
       The new interchange will have extra architectural features that dress up what traditionally has been the main access to downtown. The Downtown Partnership (DP), a consortium of downtown merchants, worked with CDOT and the city to create a gateway effect with the aid of several 17-foot-high “obelisks” along the sidewalks and old-fashioned lighting and railings that will match downtown styles. There also will be sidewalk enhancements, neighborhood signage and extensive landscaping at the east and west ends, including a little park at the northwest corner where a gas station used to be.
       The added costs are being borne largely by the city and DP, with some help from CDOT.
       “Originally it was going to be what CDOT calls a Category 1 bridge, which is its highest degree of aesthetic design, so it was already going to be attractive,” but not to the extent it will be now, explained George Hayward of CDOT.
       Owens and other speakers lauded these collaborative efforts. “You've done a great job of blending the architectural aspects of the downtown with the design of the bridge itself,” the governor said.
       In his comments, DP President Steve Engel added that the project represents “a shining example of collaboration in action.”
       Other speakers were Mayor Lionel Rivera and CDOT Executive Director Tom Norton.
       The ceremony was climaxed by the four dignitaries pulling cloth covers off three large displays that showed variously detailed views of the new interchange. They also signed a large document titled “Bijou Street Interchange and Bridge. The Future Gateway to Downtown Colorado Springs.”
       According to the COSMIX press release, a number of factors had to be considered in planning project construction, including historic resources (mainly Monument Valley Park, the Works Progress Administra-tion (WPA) rock wall and St. Mary's Cathedral), railroad requirements, creek drainage, the need to handle eight lanes of traffic in the future (it will be six for now) and the requirements of the Palmer Deeds that created the park in the first place.

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