CDOT nixes at-grade intersection at 21st
Also from Highway 24 Working Group meeting: Gold Hill Mesa ‘shortcut’ turns out to be mirage

       The Westside Highway 24 expansion's project team revealed its top three design options for a future 21st Street intersection Dec. 13.
       To no one's surprise, none of these was at-grade. Based on traffic projections for the year 2030, there will be too many cars for anything less than a full interchange, according to displays and explanations from the project team, which consists of engineers with or consultants to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
       However, Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) President Welling Clark, who has analyzed the traffic numbers for months, maintained that the state has exaggerated them, and when that problem is corrected an at-grade intersection might be possible.
       The information and discussion took place at a meeting of the Highway 24 Working Group, an informal number of civic, business and elected officials, at the Gold Hill Police Substation community room. Roughly 30 people attended.
       The meeting also revealed that a would-be “shortcut” for traffic to bypass the 21st intersection through Gold Hill Mesa won't be much of a shortcut after all; also, that the state plans to put an interchange at 15th Street (eliminating the current low-key access at 14th) but without certainty of retaining access there between the highway and Colorado Avenue.
       The favored interchange would be slightly north of the current highway, with the highway going over 21st Street. Lead project consulant Mary Jo Vobejda of CH2M HILL said she will be sending out letters to property owners south of the highway, telling them their land will not be needed.
       With on/off ramps on either side, the interchange would eliminate Angler's Covey, the businesses on Naegele Road and probably a few homes and other businesses. There would be a single point user interface (meaning just one stoplight) for 21st Street traffic under the highway (similar to Garden of the Gods Road at I-25 now). The maximum height of the highway over 21st would be 22 feet. Sound walls are being considered.
       Vobejda added that an at-grade intersection - at least at the width CDOT believes is needed - would take up just as much real estate as an interchange.
       Most, but not all, at the meeting were interested in a smaller project. Two attendees urged the state to do what's necessary to create a smooth expressway with little or no stop-and-go.
       The “shortcut”: For several months, including the August public meeting at the West Center, CDOT had shown a nearly straight-line four-lane road through the as- yet-undeveloped Gold Hill Mesa, connecting a proposed new interchange at 14th or 15th streets with Broadway Street. CDOT had drawn the road into all its design options after hearing the idea from Westside residents last spring. The notion was to divert enough traffic from 21st to let it continue as an at-grade intersection and at the same time to minimize traffic impacts on established neighborhoods by putting the “shortcut” through an area that's undeveloped.
       But at the Dec. 13 meeting, in answer to a series of citizen questions, it came out that construction of the road will not be part of the project and it's up to Gold Hill Mesa to decide how to build it. Vobejda and other consultants said the state can't tell a private developer what to do with a road on his property.
       Bob Willard, Gold Hill developer, who was at the meeting, presented a map of his plan for the road. It showed a two-lane, low-key street with two right-angle turns through a partly commercial area. He said the idea is really to discourage speedy driving in that part of his project. “People are meant to walk,” he said.
       At least two attendees at the meeting said that CDOT had misled the public. Vobejda said that from this point on the CDOT plans will show the road “the way Bob has it now.”
       15th Street: According to Vobejda, 15th would be better from an engineering standpoint than 14th, which currently has a right-in/ right-out access for westbound highway traffic. However, a recent meeting with residents of that street brought out opposition to letting drivers get off at 15th and go up to Colorado Avenue, as they do now on 14th, Vobejda said.
       It is not clear where the matter will go from this point, but according to Vobejda, CDOT's project scope does not include improving 15th up to Colorado.
       No dates have been set for future Working Group meetings at this time. Using $8.5 million of planning money, CDOT is developing an Environmental Assessment that is to be completed by 2009 for Highway 24 between I-25 and Manitou Springs.

Westside Pioneer article