Bijou SB off-ramp to open June 14; details to come

       An opening date of Thursday, June 14 has been set for the new southbound off-ramp onto Bijou Street from I-25.
       It will replace the temporary off-ramp onto Pikes Peak Avenue, according to Kyle Troxel of Rockrim-mon Constructors, the contractor for the I-25 widening project called COSMIX.
       Downtown-bound traffic will still need to detour over to Colorado Avenue because Rockrimmon isn't scheduled to finish building the new Bijou bridge until October.
       The return of traffic is being happily anticipated by the management of Denny's and the Clarion Hotel, both of which rely on easy interstate access for part of their trade.
       “We're certainly looking forward to the day it opens,” said Richard Wall, general manager of the Clarion. “Ten percent of our occupancy comes from highway traffic.”
       At Denny's, which had lost an estimated 30 percent of its business since the bridge closed in January, “it will be nice to have that back open,” said manager Susan Roberts.
       The date for the opening had been set at June 7 early this week, but moved back a week because of weather-related issues, Troxel said.
       Rockrimmon Construc-tors had originally scheduled the opening in October, when the bridge opened, but made it a higher priority because of the complaints from the business people in the area of Bijou and Spruce.
       Still being debated this week were the traffic changes needed to make the temporary configuration work - whether to have double left turns for Bijou onto Spruce Street or to make Spruce one-way southbound to Pikes Peak Avenue. Discussions on these issues are continuing between the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the city and El Paso County. The latter has raised concerns about traffic safety and on-street parking for its heavily used Department of Social Services building on the east side of Spruce.
       One plan already agreed on is to paint in a crosswalk on Spruce at Kiowa Street, according to Bill Badger of Rockrimmon Constructors.
       If Spruce were one-way, it would allow two lanes southbound to handle the traffic. This would avert the loss of 25 parking spaces on the west side of the street and probably help pedestrian safety, he said.
       Since the project started, the number of I-25 vehicles exiting in that area has dropped off significantly. Badger quoted figures that in July of last year, an average of 430 vehicles an hour were getting off at Bijou's southbound ramp. Since the project started and the temporary ramp was moved to Pikes Peak, the average is just 188 an hour.
       However, the goal is to handle peak-hour traffic, which is 550 an hour, Badger said.

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