Centennial extension progress report not pleasing to all at Mesa Springs meeting

       Craig Blewitt, City Transportation Planning manager, took on some hard questions about the proposed Centennial Boule-vard extension March 8 at a meeting of the Mesa Springs Community Asso-ciation.
       A group of about 20 people at Pike Elementary raised questions about the road's alignment, noise, pollution, traffic, environmental and neighborhood impacts and - most particularly - why it's needed at all.
       The planned 2 ½-mile, four-lane road is planned west of the older Mesa Springs neighborhood, which is west of I-25 between Fillmore and Uintah streets.
       Blewitt said the extension will relieve congestion on Fillmore Street by providing a way for drivers to go southeast from Fillmore to the Fontanero Street interchange at I-25. Fillmore itself is being widened to six lanes - a project that will be funded sometime in the next 10 years with $4.8 million of Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) money. This news prompted a resident to ask Blewitt why the city still wants to build Centennial.
       “Even with the widening of Fillmore, we're going to need the Centennial extension,” Blewitt responded. He added that the current plans - which include a bike lane, a curved layout to slow traffic, an extra-wide median, preservation of nearby Mesa Creek and Sondermann Park and a lowered road level through the established neighborhood to reduce traffic noise - resulted from past meetings with the association. “We did listen to you all (including fixing the Fillmore problem first), and we're doing what we promised,” Blewitt said.
       Velma Rogacki, who led the association for many years before recently stepping down, said Mesa Springs' best chance to stop the project was about four years ago at a City Council meeting. But only a few residents showed up at the meeting, while business interests favoring the extension came out in force. “It was a bad showing for the neighborhood,” she recalled, adding that, as a result, association leaders started working with the city to at least mitigate the impact of the road.
       One compromise the association negotiated with the city was reducing the number of lanes from the originally planned six down to four. Also, the city has agreed not to allow connections onto side streets until Centennial is built all the way through. The idea is to prevent motorists from taking the extension part way, then cutting through Mesa Springs neighborhoods as a shortcut.
       The city's plans for the road go back to 1984, Blewitt told the group. Although it has had a low priority at times, it's never dropped off the list altogether, he said - a point that Rogacki and a couple of others on hand disputed.
       When one resident suggested that big developers probably pushed the plan before City Council, Blewitt pleasantly responded, “No, it was the other bad guys… us.” He explained that the extension came up as part of a citywide analysis of road needs in the late '90s.
       Now, he pointed out, development is occurring west of the older Mesa Springs neighborhoods, which increases the need for a through road in that area.
       This growth also is leading to the road becoming a reality, as developers are being asked to pay for its construction through their properties. Two developments involved in that process now are the Indian Hills Village townhome subdivision off Mesa Valley Road and Van Buren Street and a planned medical complex south of Fillmore and Centennial. And, a large property owner south of Indian Hills is talking to the city about a future subdivision that would incorporate the road, Blewitt said.
       “The developments going in here will be an extension of your neighborhood,” Blewitt told the audience. “You lost some homes along I-25 (to a mid-90s widening project). Now you're getting them back… It will be nice to get more kids into Pike and Bristol (elementary schools).”
       No timetable has been set for completion of the extension. One private-property owner along the route lives out of town and has been unreachable for city negotiations, Blewitt said. Also, RTA money ($11.6 million) will be needed to pay for the southerly part of the road where the city owns the right of way. However, the project is on the RTA's “C” list, which only will get funded if the sales tax exceeds expectations over the next 10 years.
       Blewitt was invited to speak at the meeting by current Mesa Springs Community Association President George Gravenstein. The group's next meeting will be April 12, at which Brad Lovell of the city's Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) will talk about planned sidewalk improvements in Mesa Springs for the coming year.

Westside Pioneer article