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$19.5M supplemental for Cimarron/I-25; uncertainty on schedule, landscaping funds

       A final answer to the budget question for the Cimarron/I-25 interchange project was provided at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Colorado Transportation Commission, when the body approved $19.55 million in supplemental funds.
       Now estimated to cost $116 million, the project itself has never been in doubt, according to Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials, but the funding issues
The basic design for the Cimarron/I-25 interchange that is scheduled for construction between 2015 and 2017, with a budget of $116 million. State and local officials also envision future improvements a short distance to the west, at Eighth and Cimarron (the properties owned or needed are shown in purple), but there is as yet no schedule or funding for that.
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation
have pushed the project completion date back from July 2017, as originally scheduled, to October or later that year. “Additional information regarding the project schedule will be distributed over the next few months,” a CDOT press release states.
       Les Gruen, transportation commissioner for the Pikes Peak region, offered optimistic comments after the meeting, touching on the schedule question. “The Transportation Commission approval of the new budget will allow CDOT to move ahead in selecting a design-build contractor team to take advantage of a full construction season in 2015, and minimize the risks of extending the project duration beyond 2017.”
       The project is planned as a “design-build” type, in which only about 20 percent of the work is precisely defined, giving the contractor flexibility to work out the details on the other 80 percent once the project gets going.
       Despite its new, larger budget, Cimarron still lacks a confirmed source for an estimated $3 million in landscaping work. However, CDOT Regional Transportation Director Karen Rowe emphasized in an interview that this amenity remains “in the project scope.” Her hope that the needed funds will become available as the process moves forward, either from another source or through savings in the work itself.
       CDOT revealed in October that Cimarron needed more money after seeing contractor bids for state projects rising by 15 to 20 percent.
       “Higher construction costs resulting from material and labor cost increases as well as supply and demand, have become the norm nationally over the last several months, resulting in the current construction-industry bidding environment, affecting transportation projects across the state,” Rowe said.
       In November, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments OK'd a CDOT strategy to add $20 million to the previous Cimarron budget. But the Transportation Commission did not approve that. Instead, at their meeting later in November, commission members expressed worry about cost hikes statewide and asked whether there had been enough “belt-tightening” on Cimarron, Rowe explained.
       In a prepared statement after the Dec. 18 meeting, she said: “CDOT is greatly appreciative of the Transportation Commission's approval for the supplemental funding, especially Commissioner Gruen, who took the lead in working with CDOT on responding to the requests for additional due diligence.”
       Also helping the Cimarron case before the commission was an “independent estimate” of how much was needed for the supplemental funding. This is where the $19.55 million number came from. CDOT staff had estimated $15.5 million. “The independent estimate helped verify that the process CDOT used to establish the budget was sound and we have a solid and justifiable need to get the job done,” Rowe said.
       The sources for the supplemental funding are:
       - $5 million from RAMP (Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships) contingency funds from CDOT. Note: RAMP funds are already paying for most of the project cost.
       - $12.5 million from RPP (Regional Priority Projects) funds. Note: These are federal/state funds. Local governments like them because they can be used for a wide range of transportation projects. The November plan would have assigned up to $20 million in RPP, reducing that source for the region. So taking less RPP for Cimarron “is good news,” Rowe said.
       - $2.05 million in local matching funds from the City of Colorado Springs. Note: This will be in addition to $5 million the city has already put forward. The county has contributed $1 million.
       The Cimarron/I-25 project will replace the roughly half-century-old interchange, improve the alignment underneath it, replace the on/off ramps and straighten a curve along the interstate about a half-mile south of Cimarron. The project has been a priority for local officials for many years.

Westside Pioneer/press release
(Posted 12/18/14; Transportation: Cimarron/I-25)

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