Dec. 1 ends 2½-year job building Cimarron/I-25 as 'new gateway'
Recently named after local Pearl Harbor survivor James "Jim" Downing, the new I-25 bridge over Cimarron Street - and the interchange as a whole - have been fully open to traffic for nearly a month now.
The project itself, a $113 million interchange replacement that contractor Kraemer North America started in April 2015, has entered its final stages, focusing mainly on aesthetics and landscaping. The recently announced finish date of Dec. 1 meets the schedule announced when Kraemer started.
Asked how the traffic changes are working out so far, Dave Watt, project manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), responded that “the interchange is operating as expected, which is exciting and great to see - a remarkable change from 2½ years ago.”
He elaborated that the wider bridge structure, with auxiliary lanes on either side of the interchange bridge, has "eased congestion from merging vehicles, and the [pre-project] backups from exit ramps have been reduced.”
CDOT is also happy about the functionality of the new connection road through the "quadrant" southeast of Eighth and Cimarron, which reportedly takes up to 40 percent of the traffic away from that intersection. However, in response to inquiries about a right turn on red for eastbound quadrant traffic - because of lengthy waits when eastbound Cimarron appears to be open - Watt said that won't happen. "This movement will need to remain restricted without right
A neighborhood impacted by the project has been the Pleasant Valley neighborhood - chiefly motorists shortcutting on 30th, 31st and Fontanero/Fontmore streets. Watt did not have an immediate answer for how much the Cimarron project's completion might be improving that problem. "We believe traffic is no longer detouring due to the construction at I-25/Cimarron,” Watt opined, but added that “we do not have pre-project vs post-project volumes to quantify traffic along the 30th Street route.”
Downing, 104, a 24-year Navy veteran, is the second oldest survivor of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, which forced the United States into World War II. He wrote a book about his experiences, titled “The Other Side of Infamy.” Since the mid-1950s, he has been involved with the Navigators, an international Christian ministry located at Glen Eyrie, off North 30th Street.
District 14 State Representative Dan Nordberg (northern Colorado Springs) proposed the legislation, which has resulted in Downing's name being imprinted on bridge signs. His joint resolution passed the State Legislature unanimously in the 2017 session. An on-site ceremony commemorating the naming occurred in October.
The Cimarron/I-25 project was designed to provide better safety and capacity than the old interchange, which had opened in 1960, when the freeway was first laid
Other major changes resulting from the project are:
- Longer on-ramps and off-ramps.
- One stoplight for Cimarron traffic under I-25 (instead of the previous two).
- Three left-turn lanes from the interstate's northbound off-ramp onto westbound Cimarron (there had been two).
- Southbound ramp going straight down to the north side of Cimarron Street (previously, it had looped around to to the south side).
- Two right turns from the southbound off-ramp onto westbound Cimarron (the outer one helping vehicles get to the outside lane to turn left onto the quadrant).
- Rerouting of the Midland Trail east of Eighth to follow the north bank of Fountain Creek and connect with the Greenway Trail near the confluence with Monument Creek in America the Beautiful Park.
- Lessening the curve of I-25, starting about a half-mile south of the interchange.
- Five new traffic bridges over Fountain Creek. Two are on the interstate itself, which combine into the one mainline bridge after being built one side at a time, several months apart. The other three are the northbound on-ramp, southbound off-ramp and Cimarron west of the interchange.
- Completion of the three-laning of I-25 through Colorado Springs. That effort had started in the early 1990s and was nearly finished in the 2005-2007 COSMIX project. The original interstate through town was two lanes each way.
In comments for a late-October project ribbon-cutting ceremony, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said, "The I-25/Cimarron interchange, with its impressive new look and overall improved safety and capacity, has given us a new gateway into the city of Colorado Springs as well as to the towns and mountains to the west."
Looking ahead to future CDOT work on Highway 24, Watt noted planned projects to “enhance left turn movements at 21st and 31st Streets,” which will mean “improved progression along US 24."
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