Committee begins looking at Hwy 24 ‘aesthetics’

       A citizens committee has begun meeting with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) staff and consultants on ways to beautify the proposed Westside Highway 24 expansion. His conceptual drawing of an ampitheater and pond for which space might be available by Fountain Creek west 
of 21st Street and north of the highway as a result of right-of-way purchases for the widening.
Drawing presented by Kevin Shanks; Westside Pioneer photo
       Consultant Kevin Shanks presented 20-some illustrations and photos of potential designs for bridges, landscaping, noise control, pedestrian amenities and green areas at the first of three planned aesthetic guidelines committee meetings Nov. 19.
       The group is scheduled to meet again Jan. 21. Anyone can attend (for information, call 520-5800). About 10 citizens went to the Nov. 19 meeting.
       CDOT has recommended a plan that would widen Highway 24 to six lanes between I-25 and 31st Street, with upgrades at each intersection as far west as Ridge Road and full interchanges at 8th and 21st streets. As currently scheduled, the earliest work would be at 8th Street in 2016, with the rest of the project taking shape over the following 15 years or so.
       The goal of the committee meetings is to generate an aesthetic element for the project's Environmental Assessment (EA). CDOT plans to submit the EA for federal review by 2010.
       Some citizens at the meeting wondered how much niceties would add to the project cost, or would be charged to the local tax base if federal authorities decided they didn't contribute enough to the road improvement to be funded with federal dollars. Staff/consultants could not provide a specific answer on all points, but explained that integrating aesthetics early in a project plan - instead of trying to tack them on at the end - tends to have better results. And, in general, CDOT project lead Dave Watt said, “It doesn't cost a lot more to make a project look good.” A draft illustration of a noise wall that is done in a
“downplayed” block style that is meant to “blend in” with the natural surroundings, according to Highway 24 widening
consultant Kevin Shanks.
Drawing presented by Kevin Shanks; Westside Pioneer photo
       Laura Zamora of CDOT's project team explained that the starting point for the designs presented to the aesthetic guidelines committee was the citizen feedback CDOT had received during the four years since project planning started. She said there have been “two categories of comments” - mainly requests that any embellishments reflect the area's history and/or its natural environment. There also has been a sentiment that the highway through the Westside represents a “gateway” and that it should “encourage economic viability and visitors to the area,” Zamora said.
       Specific public requests have included low-water landscaping and the capability of crossing the highway, for pedestrians as well as wildlife, she noted.
       Shanks said he would like to see something “bold” done with Fountain Creek, which parallels the highway through the Westside. A demonstration project by the state, city and Gold Hill Mesa residential/commercial development is planned to start in January along the creek east of 21st Street and south of the highway. Shanks said that another opportunity exists west of 21st, and north of the highway, where the state will have to buy “excess right of way” up to the creek, and this would leave room for a public area with trails, landscaping and possibly an open-air ampitheater.
       Based on committee feedback, Shanks said he will work up a few new drawings for the Jan. 21 meeting, including bridges, noise walls and landscaping.
       Westsider/County Com-missioner Sallie Clark, who attended the meeting, suggested that “if any [noise] walls were put up, they should contain landscaping and berms rather than plain looking walls without any dimension.”

Westside Pioneer article