Bijou bridge to start falling down Jan. 2
Temporary 4-lane ‘mini-bypass’ to take vehicles west of interstate work area until mid-summer

       It's not every day that a new four-lane road can be built without fanfare. But that's what Rockrimmon Constructors has accomplished in the last few weeks of December.
       It's not just any four-lane road, either. When the Bijou bridge over I-25 starts being demolished at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, the new half-mile or so of blacktop will open as a temporary mini-bypass, carrying interstate motorists around the work area.
       The detour will be just west of the bridge, essentially where Bijou's southbound on/off-ramps were, according to Bill Badger of Rockrimmon Constructors.
       The work included the removal of tall trees between the southbound on-ramp and the interstate. They will not be replaced, he said.
       The temporary bypass is the latest wrinkle in a wave of traffic configurations related to replacement work on the Bijou, Colorado Avenue and Cimarron Street bridges. The former two are part of COSMIX and planned for completion by next October, while the Cimarron bridge over Conejos Street and the railroad tracks is a Colorado Springs Engineering project using Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) dollars. It is scheduled for full completion in a year but is to have four-lane capability by next summer.
       For the first week of January, only southbound vehicles will use the mini-bypass. Meanwhile, northbound vehicles can keep traveling under the interchange while demolition crews focus on its west (southbound) side as well as the portion east of the interstate that spans Monument Creek and the railroad tracks, Badger said.
       Northbound vehicles are scheduled to switch over to the bypass Jan. 8 at 5:30 a.m. after a night of preparation that will include removing the interstate median between the two sides of traffic. For two days before that, northbound drivers will go around the area via the off/on-ramps on that side.
       Those northbound ramps will be demolished, then later replaced with new ones, as part of the project.
       The temporary bypass plan only came up recently. “Until three or four weeks ago, we were going to keep traffic under the bridge and have nighttime closures to do the work,” Badger said. “Then one of our workers said why not run them over the ramps? We looked at it, and decided it would save us time and money. That worker ought to get a Christmas bonus.”
       The mini-bypass will only have a shelf life of about six months. By that time, Rockrimmon crews will have been able to lay in the concrete for the six interstate lanes underneath the new bridge (though only four will be usable initially). This will allow traffic to shift over to those new lanes while the bypass is torn out and the final southbound on/off-ramps are constructed in the same general location, Badger explained.
       Although this may sound like extra work, Badger said the bypass construction expense will be greatly outweighed by the capability it gives the contractor of letting crews work on the bridge and interstate in the daytime - and nights, when needed - through the first half of 2007.
       Many details about the project have been publicized since the beginning of December or earlier. Here are highlights of other traffic changes scheduled to take effect Jan. 2:
       The temporary southbound off-ramp and downtown detour. A temporary off-ramp from the temporary bypass will allow southbound drivers to get off at Pikes Peak Avenue. The ramp will fan out to two lanes, cross Spruce Street, and turn Pikes Peak into two lanes, one-way westbound from Spruce to Walnut Street. A temporary light has been installed at Spruce and Walnut, which will allow double lefts onto southbound Walnut. From Walnut, double lefts will also be allowed onto eastbound Colorado Avenue.
       Cimarron bridge. Traffic has been reduced from four to two lanes - with vehicles of 5 tons or more disallowed - on the bridge's north side because of structural issues that were identified last August. According to city/RTA plans, the north side will continue to carry two lanes while the south starts being demolished in January. Completion of that phase is planned for this summer. The new south side will be wider, so that four lanes of traffic can squeeze through it while the new north side is built during the rest of the year.
       Colorado Avenue. To allow work to continue on a widened bridge above the avenue, traffic going west will continue to be only one lane under the interstate for the next several months. Eastbound traffic has been just one lane in the same location, but will get its second lane back as part of the detour using the temporary Pikes Peak Avenue southbound off-ramp.
       Westside-downtown shuttle. Every 20 minutes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, a free shuttle will carry riders between bus shelters at the intersections of Bijou and Spruce streets and Cascade and Pikes Peak avenues. Bikes and wheelchairs can be accommodated.
       Spruce Street dead-end. Spruce has been permanently closed between Pikes Peak and Colorado avenues. This is necessary because of the widening of the I-25 bridges above Colorado at Spruce.

Westside Pioneer article