Expressway in, freeway out
CDOT announces alternative, leaving hope for 26th St. access, downsized plan

       The Colorado Depart-ment of Transportation (CDOT) has identified the “Midland Expressway” as the recommended option for the Westside Highway 24 corridor between Manitou Avenue and I-25.
       The tentative cost would be $240 million, according to the CDOT project team.
       The rejected option was that of a freeway, which would have allowed faster travel but cost roughly $20 million more and required interchanges at every intersection. An expressway can have interchanges or stoplights, according to Mary Jo Vobejda, project design leader for the CDOT consulting firm of CH2M HILL.
       As a result, Old Colorado City merchants now have reason to anticipate a full-access intersection at 26th Street - there would have been no highway access there in the freeway alternative - and the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) can still advocate the less impactful, locally generated expressway plan it is calling the Westsiders' Option.
       (A citizens' meeting on that option, organized by OWN, is scheduled Thursday, April 13 at the new Colorado Springs Police Gold Hill Substation, 955 W. Moreno Ave. OWN also plans to meet with the CDOT project team on the initiative. For more information, call 471-4023.)
       CDOT is calling the expressway choice a recommendation, not a decision, because the final action on the project's Environmental Assessment (EA) will eventually be made by the Federal Highway Administration, Vobejda said.
       The team had planned to announce the recommendation just before CDOT's next public open house on Westside Highway 24 Wednesday, May 10, but with members of the project team discussing it at meetings of staff and elected officials this month, word began leaking out to the point that a general announcement was deemed necessary, according to Kyle Blakely, communications specialist for the project.
       Vobejda said the chief reason for not releasing the recommendation sooner was that engineers have been talking to the 149 property owners along the corridor that could be affected in at least one of the design alternatives. “We've been trying to make sure property owners don't see it for the first time at the open house,” she said.
       The name, “Midland Expressway,” has been the highway's monicker since it was built 40 years ago, but has a new definition based on the CDOT recommendation. “The Midland Expressway emphasizes mobility for local trips and access to local neighborhoods and destinations,” said Dave Watt, CDOT's project manager, in a press release from Blakely. “It maintains the flavor of a Westside 'Main Street' with a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit, a raised median suitable for landscaping, and plenty of access to local destinations.”
       Within the expressway alternative are proposals for signalized intersections at 26th Street, 31st Street, and Ridge Road. Vobejda noted, however, that project engineers have heard many requests (including the Westsiders' Option) for an overpass at Ridge. At the 8th and 21st Street intersections, where traffic is traditionally heaviest, interchanges are planned. An expansion of the current Manitou Avenue interchange is also in the recommendation.
       “Now that we have made an initial recommendation, we will conduct detailed environmental studies, and develop and discuss several design options before we have a 'Preferred Alternative,'” Watt elaborated. “This does not pre-empt the ideas and design options being developed by neighborhood groups and stakeholders. There is a lot of refinement and detailed environmental analysis that we still need to do.”
       Watt listed several design choices that need to be made:
  • Adding access between 8th Street and 21st Street.
  • Selecting the best type of interchange at 21st Street.
  • Shifting US 24 to the north or to the south near 21st Street.
  • Adding a pedestrian overpass between 25th and 31st Streets.
  • Considering the option of an overpass, rather than an intersection, at Ridge Road.
  • Adding a signal at Ridge Road and Colorado Avenue
  • Considering improvements to the Manitou Avenue interchange.
  • Determining location of the Midland Trail extensions.
  • Improving access to existing businesses.
           “The (expressway) alternative is compatible with a bike/pedestrian trail system between Manitou Avenue and I-25 that is proposed by local governments, and includes north-south trail connections at the interchanges and intersections,” the press release adds. “A grade-separated bike and pedestrian bridge is proposed near 31st Street to connect the Red Rock Canyon Open Space to parking facilities, transit stops and other trails.”
           Also featured in the expressway alternative are transit offerings, including express buses, existing bus service or a historic trolley.
           “The Midland Expressway offers many opportunities for improved signage, aesthetic improvements and better side street access,” the release continues. “For example, improvements to Colorado Avenue at 31st Street include longer turn lanes, and improvements along 21st Street at Bott Avenue and Broadway Avenue will provide access to existing and future businesses.”
           The May 10 meeting will be from 5 to 8 p.m. at the West Center , 25 North 20th Street. CDOT is asking citizens to attend and provide their comments and opinions.
           For more information, call 477-4970 or visit the project website at us24west.com.

    Westside Pioneer article