COSMIX looking out for homeless with interim Westside-downtown shuttle bus

       Civic leaders tend to downplay the extent to which transients ride free shuttles such as the one downtown or the bus that used to run between Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.
       But COSMIX engineers are making no bones about serving that segment of the population with the free shuttle that the project will provide when the Bijou Street bridge over I-25 is closed Jan. 2 to allow work to begin on its replacement.
       Every 20 minutes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, the shuttle will carry riders between the intersections of Bijou and Spruce streets and Cascade and Pikes Peak avenues, according to information provided at a COSMIX public open house Dec. 5.
       One citizen shuttle concern at the open house, according to Bill Badger of Rockrimmon Constructors (the COSMIX contractor), was that numerous homeless people would use the service. But the fact is, he explained, “we want them to ride it.”
       Currently, there is a regular walking flow of transients over the bridge - heading to the Marian House Soup Kitchen just east of it - and the shuttle will replace that walk for some people, Badger said.
       The vehicle will be handicapped-accessible and can carry up to two bicycles.
       The bridge-construction schedule remains unchanged. The current Bijou span, built in the late 1950s for a then-new four-lane I-25, will begin being demolished starting Jan. 2, 2007, with a new bridge to be built in its place by October as part of COSMIX's expansion of the interstate to six lanes.
       Well over 100 citizens attended the 2 ˝-hour open house at the Clarion Hotel, which is located less than half a block away from the bridge.
       The gathering provided information on a variety of impacts from COSMIX activities. Truck traffic will be keenly affected by the Bijou bridge's absence - especially during the first half of 2007 when no vehicles over 10,000 pounds are allowed on the Cimarron-Conejos bridge either. This means I-25 trucks going downtown will have to get off at Nevada Avenue or Uintah Street, based on a map provided at the open house.
       With work also taking place on the Cimarron-Conejos bridge (just east of I-25) and the I-25 overpass at Colorado Avenue, people from the Westside going downtown might also consider using Nevada Avenue or Uintah Street when going east, COSMIX handouts suggest.
       Another offshoot from the Bijou work will be a temporary new southbound off-ramp south of the interchange, exiting onto Pikes Peak Avenue. The ramp, which will become operational Jan. 2, will be one lane leaving the interstate, then expand to two lanes between Spruce and Walnut streets, where there will be a temporary stoplight and two left turn lanes.
       Note: During the project, the Pikes Peak Avenue segment from Spruce to Walnut will be one way westbound.
       Another note: The Coca-Cola distribution business in that block, which is relocating to a new eastside facility, plans to finish its move by Jan. 5. So there will only be potential off-ramp conflict with the company's delivery trucks during the first week of the project, Badger said.
       Traffic will continue to be two lanes south from Walnut to Colorado Avenue, where there will be a double left turn for traffic going east into the downtown. A lane, possibly the rightmost left-turn lane, will continue to be available for Walnut traffic going south (straight) or west (right), according to City Engineer Cam McNair.
       Another impact of the increased Walnut traffic at Colorado will be increased Walnut green time at the light. How much is still being determined, but it will likely be at least the same as Colorado's, McNair said.
       Westsider/County Commissioner Sallie Clark said at the open house that she is seeking funding to enhance the landscaping on Bijou Street just west of the new bridge. The COSMIX project will pay for a small park at the northwest corner (next to the Clarion Hotel), and a raised median will be installed between the bridge and Spruce. However, extra money in the neighborhood of $100,000 would be needed to landscape the median, add amenities to the park and possibly install a welcoming sign for westbound motorists, according to George Hayward of the COSMIX team.
       Overall, COSMIX officials made no attempt to disguise the likelihood of slower trips for drivers using (or trying to get past) I-25 in 2007. “Please plan for extra time on your trips and remain patient as these important improvements are made to our transportation system,” stated a handout that was provided at the open house.
       Some improvement should occur by June, when the first half of the Cimarron bridge is to be complete, restoring four lanes of traffic to that current choke-point.
       The COSMIX project, budgeted at $150 million, will complete efforts that started in the 1990s to make the interstate three lanes each way all the way through Colorado Springs.

Westside Pioneer article