EDITORíS DESK: The two sides of CDOT
Our Page 1 story about the speed change on Highway 24 seems like a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. One office of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) says the 45-mph speed limit between 8th and 31st streets could be increased to 50 after certain
improvements are made; then another office comes along and decides to make it 55 with the current configuration.
But I think it goes deeper than that (putting aside the fact that the first office spent $8 million and eight years in a process titled "Envision 24 West," which led at last to an Environmental Assessment, while the second office whipped out its findings in a speed study just this year). Not meaning to conjure any painful memories, but think back if you will to the Envision 24 West effort. As we went through round after round of meetings, many of us (myself included) waxed critical regarding the seeming insensitivity of CDOT. The state engineers and their consultant counterparts were listening, yes, but they just weren't hearing... or so it seemed at the time.
Only now, with the state's out-of-the-blue switcheroo from 45 to 55 mph west of Eighth Street, does it start to seem as if the engineers back then really were trying to do us Westsiders a favor. Faced with two main highway user types - pass-through motorists zooming through and local folks using it as needed - the CDOT group leading that study came down on the local side. They rejected a "freeway alternative (at 55 mph) and opted for an "expressway" model (at 50). The EA, which has been submitted to the feds, describes a goal of easier access and providing "a look and feel that is more like a local road."
By contrast, the CDOT bunch who decided on 55 based it largely on 85 percent of the highway's drivers being scofflaws. Freeway... expressway? Who cares? People are speeding - make it the law! They didn't talk to the neighborhood or local officials, not even to the Envision 24 West engineers. All for the maximum gain, as we've calculated, of 36 seconds of time. A better use of that time might be to watch your back. Those big trucks are coming down a lot faster than they used to.