Going beyond the bricks and mortar
Shanks: Aesthetic touches to be part of mitigation for Hwy 24 impacts
Citizen participants in the recently completed aesthetics meetings for Highway 24 viewed numerous drawings and considered various ornamental touches, structural
designs and landscaping schemes for the state-proposed widening between I-25 and Manitou Springs. No votes were taken nor any exact agreements necessarily
sought (although the proposed rock motifs on the roadway bridges proved popular with the citizens who attended).
But exact plans for the corridor's appearance are not essential at this time, according to Kevin Shanks, the landscape architect contracting with the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT) who led this part of the project planning effort.
The key thing, he said, is that CDOT will be requiring such niceties at all - to be defined eventually in the form of an “aesthetic guidelines” document - as part of the Environmental Assess-ment (EA) that must be submitted to the federal government for the project.
“The EA will be referring to this document,” he said. “As the roadway design advances, part of the mitigation for the project impacts will be in the aesthetic guidelines. That puts some teeth into it. It tells people they've got to use it.”
That in itself sets the Highway 24 EA apart, Shanks said. “Design guidelines are often done, but having them attached to the EA is kind of unique.”
The term “mitigation” refers to the requirement that CDOT has to address any impacts its road projects have. An example is added stormwater runoff because of the increased amount of pavement.
The way CDOT has typically handled this in the past is to mitigate issues on a point-by-point basis. Shanks said the difference is that CDOT project team members have come to see Highway 24 as “such an urban corridor” - including Fountain Creek, residential and business areas, recreational activities and tourism - that CDOT project officials believe these elements should be “overlaid with the roadway, so we take a more holistic look at the whole thing.”
A previous indication of that thinking was the tangential effort a year ago to examine the potential for locations and uses of a “greenway” on land that might become available along the Highway 24 project corridor, restoring the creek and providing trail links.
While conceding that overall, “nobody will get everything they wanted” from the Highway 24 project, at least the final outcome should be better as a result of the broader mitigation approach, Shanks summarized.
Where the planning effort will go from here is not definite at this point. The CDOT team has expressed a goal of submitting the EA to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) next year, but funding is tight and local priorities don't anticipate any of the work being done for at least seven years.
Dave Watt, CDOT's lead engineer on the project, said that by summer he expects to have a schedule of any other public meetings in the planning process. He said that meetings on noise walls would be included, although how those will be handled will depend on the results of an as-yet-incomplete noise analysis suggesting locations or sizes of walls.
Drawing of how noise walls might look were presented as part of the aesthetic effort (consisting of three public meetings over the past six months). Westsider and County Commissioner Sallie Clark critiqued the wall drawings at the most recent meeting, saying afterward, “I'd like to see a little berming and landscaping, something more aesthetically pleasing than just a block wall.” In response, Shanks said he would try to come up with a concept that is less “plain.”
The last of the aesthetic meetings was April 22. It was more of an open house, with drawings spread out on tables, and CDOT officials and consultants answering questions. Twenty or so citizens attended, about the attendance at each of the previous two meetings, in November and January.
In addition to drawings of highway bridges, the open house displayed one of a pedestrian bridge that would mitigate the larger size of the 26th Street crossing by letting people from the dead end south of the highway at 25th Street walk or bike over the highway and Fountain Creek onto 25th on the other side, This had been proposed early in the highway-planning process, in fall 2004, through a petition signed by Midland-area residents and supported by Old Colorado City businesses. One attendee, Jeff Hitchcock, said a similar type of bridge ought to be considered near the proposed, large Eighth Street interchange.
Westside Pioneer article