Plan to open southbound Bijou off-ramp 4 months early
The Bijou/Spruce Street commercial area, which has become a backwater with the Bijou bridge closure, may finally catch a break.
Looking for ways to speed up the I-25 expansion, state COSMIX contractor Rockrimmon Constructors has proposed opening Bijou's new southbound off-ramp about four months earlier than the currently scheduled Oct. 1.
“The primary reason is to facilitate construction of the southbound interstate lanes,” explained Bill Badger of Rockrimmon. “The secondary reason is that those businesses are really hurting. They've been calling us on a regular basis. Doing this works out for us, and it also happens to works out for the businesses.”
A temporary southbound ramp lets drivers get off at Pikes Peak Avenue at Spruce Street. While this provides a detour to the downtown, it essentially bypasses the businesses around Bijou and Spruce that rely on steady traffic. The ramp also cuts across the area where Rockrimmon needs to lay in permanent interstate pavement, Badger pointed out.
Approvals from the city, county and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) are needed, Badger said. He noted that one possible downside from opening the ramp before completing the bridge would be above-normal traffic along Spruce Street - because downtown-bound traffic would still have to use the detour.
However the initial feedback from the county - whose Department of Human Services (DHS) would be the most affected by that traffic increase - has been favorable. In interviews with the Westside Pioneer, both County Commissioner Sallie Clark and DHS Director Barbara Drake said that conceptually they favored the idea.
“It would certainly improve business in that area,” Clark said. She termed getting off I-25 at the temporary Pikes Peak Avenue off-ramp as “a little dangerous. It's quick - whoops, if you're not paying attention, you miss it.”
“In the overall scheme, I'd rather see them do it (the project) quickly,” Drake said. The change would also ease DHS parking, because the temporary ramp has barricades that “kind of go through our parking lot,” she added. Asked about the increased traffic on Spruce, Drake said she believes “it won't have a huge impact on us.”
The tentative plan is to meet late next week to gather more details and see if the government entities are ready to sign off on the change after hearing them. One idea, proposed by CDOT, is to make Spruce Street temporarily one-way from Bijou to Pikes Peak Avenue, Badger said.
In addition, CDOT has told Rockrimmon it will need to individually contact the surrounding neighborhood about the early ramp opening. According to Badger, this amounts to more than 150 addresses, which he himself will be visiting, as he has on prior occasions since the project got underway.
The major Bijou/Spruce businesses which are affected by accessibility issues are the Clarion Hotel, Denny's, Emergicare and 7-Eleven. Others include a liquor store and a Chinese restaurant. Recent interviews with the liquor store (Drive-In Liquors) and Denny's have indicated a major earnings drop-off in that area since the bridge project started in January.
Asked if he would favor the ramped-up ramp plan - which could possibly mean an opening before the traditionally high-trade Memorial Day weekend - Mike Morrissey of Drive-In Liquors responded, “Of course I would. Heck, yeah. I'd be more than happy.”
Westside Pioneer article