Citizens get chance to sound off on Hwy 24 EA; CDOT accepting written comments until July 11
Capping eight years of meetings and study by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and a team of consultants, an open house, presentation and public hearing on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Westside Highway 24 expansion project attracted more than 100 citizens June 11.
The event at the Community Partnership for Child Development building at 2330 Robinson Street marked the last scheduled public gathering before CDOT submits its “Envision 24 West” EA for federal review.
“It's an exciting time,” said Dave Watt, the lead engineer for “Envision,” extolling the proposed project's potential to solve currently worsening traffic jams on a four-mile stretch of highway west of I-25. “This is the concluding part of the study.”
In a separate interview, he predicted that approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) could occur within a few months; however, no construction funding exists yet - neither the estimated $230 million for construction nor $50 million to purchase right of way.
The EA presentation offered no major divergence from the basic plans that the public has seen over the past four years - a general widening with interchanges at 8th and 21st streets, six-lane at-grade intersections at 26th and 31st and an overpass at Ridge Road.
The public hearing revealed some citizen questions, requests and/or complaints. Points that were raised included:
Watt credited citizens for helping drive many of the key decisions that led to the final EA, such as keeping 26th at grade to ease access to Old Colorado City, respecting the Roundhouse building's National Historic Registry status at 21st Street and changing the roadway design for the adjacent Cimarron/I-25 interchange to use one less stoplight.
Another CDOT handout at the June 11 meeting was a color booklet called “Shifting Gears,” that claims “51 ways the community shaped the solution for US 24 West.”
“The Westside community was very much engaged in the process,” Watt said at the meeting. “We may not have always agreed, but because of sticking with it we have a lot better project.”
Should funding become available, the EA states that Eighth Street is the highest priority for that part of the highway corridor, along with the Cimarron/I-25 interchange. The latter is not part of Envision 24 West, although aspects of the project (such as a future flyover) would augment it.
Two of the speakers, Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) President Welling Clark and former OWN president Jim Fenimore, urged CDOT to build the Eighth Street interchange first and see if that solves the main traffic problems before moving on to any other authorized work in the EA.
Bill Koerner, former Manitou Springs mayor, who represented the town on a CDOT-organized technical committee during the planning period, lauded “Envision” as a “marvelous result for anybody on the Westside,” although he did urge CDOT to “make it look good.”
For those who did not go to the meeting, a public comment period is continuing through July 11. The EA can be found at the website: coloradodot.info/projects/us24west. A hard copy is at the Old Colorado City Library.
The Envision phone is 477-4970. The e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: Based on initial information from CDOT, a graphics cutline in the June 7 Westside Pioneer incorrectly stated that the KFC at 31st and Colorado would be one of the property acquisitions in the expansion project. CDOT has since clarified that this would not be the case.
Westside Pioneer article