Decision made too fast?
Neighborhoods feel CDOT bypassed them in I-25 speed-limit hike
A planned speed-limit increase on I-25 appears likely to go forward, despite objections from the city's largest umbrella neighborhood organization.
Speaking at the Nov. 12 Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board meeting, Dave Munger, president of the 60-group Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO), asked for “help and advice” on the issue. The residents are worried particularly about safety and increased noise from faster cars, now that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has announced plans to raise the I-25 speed limit from 55 to 65 between South Nevada Avenue and the Briargate Parkway.
He also pointed out that when several neighborhood groups had discussed the subject with CDOT representatives Nov. 3, the speed-limit increase was not revealed, but the next day CDOT sent out a press release announcing the change.
CDOT Regional Transportation Director Tim Harris apologized on behalf of the agency for the plans not having been made clear to the neighborhood groups and said he would put a fuller explanation in writing.
Munger was supported by Jan Doran, a former CONO president, who said that because of the impacts on residents and businesses neighboring the interstate, a “public process” is needed before the speed hike is implemented
The PPACG board's response was essentially that it has no power to do more than make suggestions to CDOT. It did not make any as a group. However, board members Sallie Clark, Leni Walker and Jerry Heimlicher questioned if CDOT had looked at the matter thoroughly enough. Clark said she is concerned that the interstate through the central part of the city may be too curvy for higher speeds, that people driving faster may not want to get off in Colorado Springs as a result, and that there could be ramp safety problem. Walker wanted to know if the COSMIX project that finished making I-25 three lanes through town last year was designed to allow faster speeds than 55.
Heimlicher suggested that a higher speed limit might make people want to drive faster, but board member Dennis Hisey said people usually just drive the speeds at which they're comfortable.
Board Chair Tyler Stevens said he wanted to study up on the matter and was willing to discuss it again at the next board meeting in mid-December. That is about when, based on what Harris said, the 65-mph signs will be getting posted on the interstate.
Discussion brought out that the state agency's policy is similar to that of Colorado Springs - where setting speed limit is data-based and public opinions are not sought. “We don't want to politicize it,” said board member Larry Small, who is also Colorado Springs vice-mayor.
For I-25, a state study found that 85 percent of the drivers were going at about 69 mph. “CDOT's goal is to set an appropriate speed limit so that it allows the maximum number of vehicles to travel at about the same speed, thus reducing conflicts caused by extreme speed differentials,” a CDOT press release states.
Harris also noted that with a 65 mph limit, state troopers are more likely to issue tickets to speeders, because there won't be quite so many of them. He wondered out loud if he were the only person driving 55 now.
CONO had formally asked for a meeting with the state last August when the study was still underway. While the group understood that CDOT sought to “reduce the risk of accidents between slower and faster vehicles,” Francine Hansen, then the CONO president, wrote that with the COSMIX completion, “significantly more neighborhoods” (up to a distance of five miles) can now hear the freeway.
To absorb traffic noise, Hansen's letter requests that the state consider adding side vegetation and earth berms and over-paving the concrete with quieter rubberized asphalt.
In a letter to CDOT (to Harris) this week, Munger offers the opinion that raising the speed limit to 65 “will have detrimental affects on fuel consumption, pollution, noise, merging traffic, economic impact and overall safety.”
Westside Pioneer article