65 mph speed still planned for I-25
But contrite CDOT may help neighborhoods with sound-control upgrades

       Local neighborhoods may lose the battle over raising the I-25 speed limit through central Colorado Springs, but could gain some mitigating concessions from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
       Region 2 CDOT Director Tim Harris joined Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) President Dave Munger in an announcement to this effect Dec. 10 at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board meeting.
       In November, CDOT had revealed a plan to raise the limit from 55 to 65 mph between South Nevada Avenue and the Briargate Parkway, in large part because of the COSMIX project, completed last year, that finished giving I-25 three lanes each way through town. CONO, which represents numerous city neighborhood associations, complained that this could mean higher speeds, leading to issues with noise and safety. The group was also miffed at not being contacted beforehand about potential problems.
       Harris told Munger he would look into different types of sound controls (including, for the first time, rubberized asphalt) and even talk to CDOT's traffic engineers about not raising the limit at all.
       However, “I'd be surprised” if the hike is not implemented, Harris said after the meeting. With field studies having clocked 85 percent of the Nevada-to-Briargate interstate drivers at 69 mph, CDOT engineers could actually justify 70 mph, he pointed out.
       Nevertheless, in respect of the neighbors' wishes, “It doesn't seem unreasonable to go back and ask [the engineers] again,” Harris said.
       Simultaneously, Welling Clark of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), also a CONO member, has made an open records request for the study numbers to verify that the numbers were interpreted properly.
       Harris offered the opinion that if the scenario were to play out again, a better CDOT strategy would be to raise the speed limit but to also seek out neighborhood input (rather than experience it as an unsought backlash). “It's a good lesson for us,” he said.
       Assuming no change from CDOT traffic engineers, plans now call for the 65-mph signs to be erected in January, Harris said.
       CDOT's sound control research is to involve:
  • Figuring out what it would cost to treat the current sound barriers as well as the pavement so that they absorb noise better.
  • Considering whether new sound walls should be added.
  • Working with neighborhoods and other organizations on a plan for more landscaping and tree planting to reduce I-25's sound and sight impacts.
  • Talking with City of Colorado Springs engineers about their tests with rubberized asphalt on a segment of Union Boulevard over the last couple of years. Staff reports to City Council have been favorable, and people who have driven that part of Union say it is noticeably quieter than regular pavement.
           The state's willingness even to consider rubberized asphalt would be “a big step forward,” said Munger, who lives just east of I-25 in the Old North End neighborhood. In previous years, CDOT has rejected that innovation, saying it has not been proven in cold-weather regions.
           If used, the material would be laid over the interstate concrete. No cost estimates have been made, but “it wouldn't be a huge amount of money,” Munger said, adding that certain types of rubberized asphalt have the added benefit of extending the life of the concrete they are covering.

    Westside Pioneer article