EDITORíS DESK: CDOT view of Westside: Road-kill
I hope you're not getting too bored with the Highway 24 coverage. I know it's the subject we've covered the most in the past two years, and here we are again this
issue (for the second week in a row, actually), poking away at yet another angle. I've had one or two people say they wish we'd not cover it quite so much;
meanwhile, there are others who say they're glad we're writing about what the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is doing because no one else is.
From the vantage point of this newspaper - which pinpoints the center of the universe as the Colorado Springs Westside - we keep harping on the highway expansion planning process because there really is no other subject with so much potential to radically alter the Westside way of life. When I say "radically alter," I suppose I'm thinking "destroy," although that sounds too dramatic. Yet it might not be premature to start analyzing what sorts of changes the project might bring. According to long-time Westside leader and historian Dave Hughes, the expressway, when CDOT built it around 1960, hurt Old Colorado City by giving vehicles a speedy way to go around it, instead of through it. The area saved itself by transforming into a historic destination, but the Westside still is not where people go to make their millions. For this go-around, CDOT is painting pretty pictures about smoother access and tranquil greenways, but, as Hughes also observed, how can a greenway coexist with a noise wall? It's becoming more and more questionable if the pretty stuff - let alone the odd side road or overpass - will get funded at all, as our recent stories point up.
What's not happening with this project is truly creative thinking, based on the premise that the Westside is a special place. Instead we get cookie-cutter solutions and interchange designs based solely on traffic counts. The state transportation director is so thick he won't let his engineers even consider rubberized asphalt (vastly improved in recent years) instead of noise walls. Maybe preserving the Westside AND expanding the highway is a Rubic's Cube with no solution, but I have yet to see clear evidence these planners are even trying. To them, it appears, we're just 4-odd miles of road-kill.