Feds give OK; I-25 widening to start next summer
Bijou interchange, 3 lanes through central Colorado Springs slated in project’s first phase

       The widening of I-25 through the old center of Colorado Springs will likely begin next summer, thanks to a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), announced this week by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
       The decision frees up about $150 million for phase one of the project, expected to last until about 2008, according to James Flohr, engineer with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). A Westside-related phase-one element will be the replacement of the Bijou interchange. Other work in that phase will include installing the Nevada Avenue/ Rockrimmon Boulevard interchange and widening the interstate to six lanes from Circle Drive to North Academy Boulevard.
       One uncertainty in the $150 million is the $10 million pledged by the City of Colorado Springs for transitional improvements at the Bijou interchange and at North Nevada Avenue. The money would come from the Rural Transportation Authority ballot issue - if it passes in the Nov. 2 election. If not, City Council will be consulted about ways to find the needed money, according to City Transportation Planning Manager Craig Blewitt.
       Flohr said CDOT has already “short-listed” four contractors who are interested in taking on the phase one work. A request for proposals (RFP) was scheduled to go out this week. Based on the RFP responses, the project contractor will be selected by mid-January, Flohr said, meaning a probable summer start to the work.
       One stipulation of the work will be that two lanes of traffic each way always need to be open during peak driving periods (about 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily), he said.
       The RFP is also likely to require the first phase to be complete by the end of 2008, Flohr said.
       The overall project is priced at $550 million, with additional phases planned to include new interchanges at Cimarron and Fillmore and the addition of six regular traffic lanes from South Academy Boulevard to Highway 105 in Monument. An even more distant phase calls for installation of a fourth lane each way for high-occupancy vehicles. Depending on funding, 20 years might be needed to complete all the envisioned improvements, according to prior CDOT information.
       The formal announcement of the FONSI came at a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 22 at the Antlers-Hilton Hotel.
       “The project will help alleviate congestion through the heart of Colorado Springs when it's completed,” said CDOT Executive Director Tom Norton, who addressed a group of media and area transportation supporters.
       The FONSI is the result of a five-year Environmental Assessment (EA) study identifying the environmental, economic, historical and social impacts of widening I-25 through the Pikes Peak Region. The EA was completed in March. After a 45-day public comment period, CDOT reviewed the comments, then sent the final EA off to the FHWA this summer.
       “I-25 opened through this area in 1960 with 8,500 vehicles per day. Now, more than 100,000 vehicles travel the corridor daily,” said Terry Schooler, transportation commissioner for this region. “We've needed this for a long time.”

Westside Pioneer article