EDITORíS DESK: An interesting turn in the highway
It all comes down to money.
That's what struck me, while sitting through the three-hour meeting June 13 at which local political leaders agreed to "put the brakes" on the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Westside Highway 24 planning process.
Don't get me wrong. I think it was admirable of our local chiefs to stand up to the CDOT machine the way they did. This finally puts the whole show in front of everybody, instead of in pieces and parts, the way the open houses have been going, and the way CDOT was giving smile-button presentations of its proposals to individual groups that like hearing happy catch phrases such as "clearing up congestion" and "addressing the east-west corridor." Non-technical groups that have other things to do might feel satisfied - as the Highway Advisory Committee reportedly was - and not ask things like: How wide will it be? How high? How many homes and businesses will be wiped out? And, what will be left of the Westside when it's done?
Definitely, a tip of the hat should go to the Welling and Sallie Clark tandem for leading the effort - Welling as president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) and Sallie as chair of the El Paso County commissioners.
But as for the money.... Amid the jolly consensus, no one at the meeting disputed the need to obtain federal funding for this project. Sorry, folks, but that sounds like a trap. What happens when the "brake" time ends in a month or so, when everyone's studied this thing and found the only way to qualify for federal money - because of the way the feds grade out intersections - is the monstrosity CDOT's been pushing? That's when we have to be ready to say no. If the Westside can't be preserved in the project, then we don't want no stinking federal dollars to build it. Will our local leaders be ready to make that call? I'm just worried they're looking at this thing through the wrong end of the telescope.