EDITORíS DESK: The RTA and Cimarron/I-25

       The proposal to add the Cimarron/I-25 interchange to the list for the next go-round of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) brings up interesting points on both sides of the issue. Not the least of these is what voters will think of this $20 million idea. As city transportation planner Kathleen Krager pointed out, construction on state/federal roadways (in this case, the interstate and U.S. Highway 24) is typically funded by those entities. Are citizens of Colorado Springs and other government entities in the RTA going to like setting a new, expensive precedent - using up almost a year's worth of RTA money on just the first of four Cimarron/I-25 interchange phases and as a result having to omit one or more local projects from the 10-year list?
       On the other hand, the area really needs a better interchange there - it's over 50 years old, built at a time when the Colorado Springs population was 70,000 people - and no state or federal construction funding is on the horizon. As a matter of fact, the area can't even hold its breath that there will be such dollars for Cimarron/I-25, even though it's been a high local priority for a decade or more and would have been part of the 2005-07 COSMIX project if more funds had been available then. (Note: we're putting aside here, for the purpose of discussion, the reality that any money from the feds these days is at the expense of an eerily mounting national debt.) From the state standpoint, quite simply not enough money has been made available for transportation. As for Uncle Sugar, local leaders recently decided to focus on the "shovel-ready" Fillmore/I-25 interchange (where the right of way is purchased and only a new deck is needed, not a whole new superstructure), and Krager and her staff are even now busily preparing that grant request (see our story Feb. 16). So you might ask: Why can't the bureaucrats in D.C. give this area money for two interchanges at the same time, if the need is there? What, you think this is Denver?
       As for our opinion on this, how about a nice, safe punt? The mayor's office appears to be behind the idea, so we can expect a strong presentation in favor at the March 14 RTA meeting. After that, we can all see what we think as voters.

- K.J.