Proposal: Add southbound off-ramp for Cimarron/I-25 to list for next round of RTA

       A proposal has surfaced to fund the first phase of a new Cimarron/I-25 interchange with Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Au-thority (RTA) funds.
       The proposal was announced during a City Council discussion Feb. 28 on the project list that will go before voters this fall for a 10-year renewal of the RTA program (and its 1-cent sales tax), which would take effect in 2015.

A graphic includes the planned southbound off-ramp (blue) for a new Cimarron/I-25 interchange. West is up. I-25 southbound lanes are orange, northbound green and new northbound on-ramp purple. Note the design - instead of looping back to Cimarron (like now), the new southbound off-ramp would bring motorists directly down to the street, just west of the interchange. This ramp has been proposed to be added to the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority project list that will go before voters in November.
Courtesy of Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments

       The interchange's Phase 1 - four are conceptualized in all - would basically be a new southbound off-ramp. About a year ago, regional planners put its cost at $17 million, but the estimated amount given at the meeting was $15 million. The plan is to get $20 million total from the RTA, leaving $5 million to use as a “match” to leverage outside funds for future interchange work, explained Kathleen Krager, senior transportation planner.
       Council voted to OK a tentative RTA list that does not include the interchange; however, council members were interested in hearing more about the idea, and the matter is slated to come back to them in a few weeks.
       In the meantime, a Chamber of Commerce committee is preparing a citizen poll, and a presentation on the idea is slated at the next monthly RTA meeting Wednesday, March 14, starting at 1 p.m. at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) offices, 15 S. Seventh St.
       Sallie Clark, a Westsider and county commissioner, is one of the proponents of adding the Phase 1 project. She and other area leaders have deemed the interchange a transportation priority for years, but outside funding has been elusive, so without the RTA, “it won't get funded for years,” Clark said.
       A different opinion was given to council by Krager. “It [Phase 1] is an improvement that technically the state and feds should be making as an interstate system going to a U.S. highway,” she pointed out.
       She also noted that it's not known where the funding for the other three interchange phases (including the other ramps) would come from. The overall price tag is close to $100 million, and the only funding to date is $4.2 million that the state set aside about a year ago to buy right of way for the southbound off-ramp.
       However, Krager did note that Mayor Steve Bach and his staff “view this as a very top priority, a very critical improvement.”
       If the project was added to the RTA list, one or more projects currently on it would have to be taken off or reduced in priority, Clark agreed. No suggestions on that count came out of the council meeting.
       A final government decision on projects in the list is not needed until August, Krager said.
       Based on current RTA revenues, the average portion of funds available to Colorado Springs each year is about half the overall total of $26.9 million.

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