Citizens see ideas to pretty up Hwy 24

       A large red rock bluff would need to be cut back about 20 feet to make room for a widened Highway 24 west of 31st Street.

Kevin Shanks, a landscaping consultant for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), displays a drawing depicting stone bridges for Ridge Road (over the future Midland Trail) and Highway 24 (over Ridge) during a CDOT workshop on expansion aesthetics Jan. 21.
Westside Pioneer photo

       And, bridges with stone exteriors could become the signature look for bridges crossing Fountain Creek throughout the project area between I-25 and Ridge Road.
       These were two significant design features presented to about a dozen citizens Jan. 21 by Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) consultant Kevin Shanks at the second of three public-input “aesthetic planning workshops” (as CDOT calls them) for the proposed Highway 24 expansion through the Westside.
       Cutting back the big rock bluff for Highway 24 would be nothing new. It was shaved initially when the road was first built in the 1960s, according to local historian Mel McFarland.
       The additional right of way would mainly be needed for a third through lane each way, CDOT engineers explained. The highway space is narrow in that area because of the rock bluff to the south and, to the north, the (planned) Midland Trail, Fountain Creek and the Safeway store wall abutting the creek.
       An option that CDOT had considered, other than cutting back the rock, was cantilevering the highway to the north. But that was rejected because of high maintenance costs and a problem with excessively shading the Midland Trail, Shanks said.
       The rock stands close to 100 feet high and would provide an excellent overlook in conjunction with neighboring Red Rock Canyon Open Space, suggested John Trimble, a citizen attending the meeting. Shanks agreed, pointing out different rock-cut options, including one in which the rock might be “stepped back” (instead of cut vertically) to allow a trail. However, this type of cut would require approval from the city because it would go outside the existing CDOT right of way and into the city-owned Red Rock property, Shanks noted.
       In general, a consensus of meeting attendees seemed to prefer leaving the rock with as natural a face as possible, even if it is cut back.
       Consensus also seemed to favor the stone bridge concept. Shanks presented a rendering showing a stone-faced Ridge Road going over the Midland Trail and under an also-stone-faced Highway 24. The idea would be to provide such “character” at all places where cross streets go over Fountain Creek, Shanks said. Commissioner Sallie Clark proposed that the effect also be used to some degree at the major interchanges.
       The rock-cut and stone bridge concepts are still far from becoming part of the Highway 24 plan. Other entities, including City Parks and the Trails and Open Space Coalition, will also be looking at the proposals, Shanks said.
       The aesthetics element of the Highway 24 proposal will eventually be worked into the Environmental Assessment (EA) that CDOT will prepare for the expansion project proposal and submit to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

An artist's rendering shows the narrow part of the future Highway 24 corridor west of 31st Street. Photo looks east. From far right are the rock bluff that would be cut back, a six-lane highway, a slope with retaining wall down to the Midland Trail, a retaining wall down to Fountain Creek, and the south wall of the Safeway store.
Drawing courtesy of Kevin Shanks (photographed by Westside Pioneer)

       It is not yet determined how much of the aesthetic aspects would be covered by project funds (when obtained), but certain enhancements can be funded if they “mitigate” impacts from the project, CDOT engineers have said.
       The third public-input aesthetics meeting is scheduled April 22, in the same location as the first two (the Head Start office on Robinson Street). That meeting will include a discussion on the placement and appearance of sound walls, Shanks said.

Westside Pioneer article