Hwy 24 project to rework creek, trail

       A plan to realign parts of Fountain Creek - with a re-routed Midland Trail beside its banks - is taking shape in conjunction with conceptual engineering of the Westside Highway 24 widening project. Fountain Creek burbles under the Highway 24 bridge east
of 21st Street in this file photo that also shows a city-built,
flow-controlling drop structure in the foreground. The creek’s relatively sharp turns on either side of the bridge could be partially straightened as part of the Westside 
Highway 24 expansion project.
Westside Pioneer file photo
       Consultants with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) discussed preliminary aspects of the plan at an informal meeting of the Highway 24 Working Group Nov. 1.
       Continued creek discussions, along with scrutiny of the proposed highway expansion between I-25 and Eighth Street, are tentatively scheduled for the next Working Group meeting Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Colorado Springs Police Gold Hill Substation, 955 W. Moreno Ave.
       Consideration of the state's controversial 21st Street interchange plans had been scheduled for that meeting, but are being put off to give state engineers more time to study different possibilities, according to Welling Clark of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), which has advocated a less massive project.
       Regarding trail plans for a widened Highway 24, Mary Jo Vobejda, lead engineer with principal CDOT consulting firm CH2M HILL, said that “the intent is not for a dramatic realignment of the creek, but to look for places where that might help.”
       Factors include flooding issues and aesthetics. Vobejda said her team wants to engineer the project so as to eliminate the flood plain; this could save insurance costs for hundreds of nearby businesses and homes. At the same time, to avoid the creek having an “industrial look,” the project would retain as many of the corridor's “mature trees” as possible, explained Kevin Shanks, a landscape consultant with the project team. This has been an issue for some Westsiders since the city reworked Fountain Creek near Eighth Street two years ago and removed nearly all the old trees.
       The CDOT team has no specific creek/trail realignment recommendations as yet, although Vobejda confirmed that the relatively sharp creek turn just east of 21st Street - where the creek curves from the north to the south side of the highway - is one of those being looked at.
       The state has been meeting with Colorado Springs Parks staff about possible Midland Trail re-routes. Asked for a comment this week, Jeff Haley, City Parks trails planner, said, “We appreciate the planning that the Highway 24 team is doing in regard to city parks and trails, and we are open to partnership and coordination.”
       One part of the trail likely to need re-routing, he said, would be the Midland Trail that was built two years ago between 8th and 21st streets (because it sits so close to the Highway 24 corridor that is to be widened).
       The corridor upgrades would likely also include new bridges over Fountain Creek. These could be designed to leave room for trails underneath, Haley noted. The lack of such room has complicated plans for Midland trail crossings at 21st, 26th, and 31st streets.
       The state planning team is also looking at having trails on either side of Fountain Creek between 8th and 21st streets (a trail on the southern side is envisioned as part of the Gold Hill Mesa subdivision).
       However, these and other corridor proposals are still years away from reality, according to project team estimates, with local consensus still being sought and no federal funding yet available.

Westside Pioneer article