Open house June 27 on I-25 bridges at Bijou and Colorado

       Updates on the imminent I-25 upgrades at Bijou Street and Colorado Avenue will be provided at an open house Tuesday, June 27 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel, just west of I-25 at 314 W. Bijou St.
       Already well known are plans for the nine-month removal of the Bijou Street bridge, set to start Jan. 2, 2007, and the roughly simultaneous widening of I-25's no- access bridge over Colorado Avenue. Relatively new elements of the I-25 project (nicknamed “COSMIX”) are the drainage detention pond that will go in where Budget Rent-a-Car was at the west end of the Bijou bridge and the rock-by-rock removal/restoration of the historic Work Progress Administration (WPA) wall just east of I-25.
       “People can learn a little more about the project,” said Bill Badger, spokesman for Rockrim-mon Constructors, the COSMIX contractor under the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Engineers from CDOT and Rockrimmon Constructors will be on hand at the open house, and schedules and sketches will be on display.
       However, Badger noted, no final decisions have been made yet about how southbound traffic might temporarily exit at Bijou and detour around the project area or about a possible shuttle bus across I-25 and into the downtown during the closure time frame (January-October 2007).
       Preliminary work is already underway in the Bijou/Colorado area. Demolition of the Budget building, as well as the former gas station on the north side of the street, was starting this week, and tree removals and other prep work have been occurring off Colorado Avenue.
       In mid-July, work is to begin on the Colorado bridge itself. The first stage will be the new northbound side, which will be cantilevered east of the existing bridge, Badger said.
       The cantilever's purpose, in part, is to preserve the WPA wall. Built just west of Monument Creek in the 1930s, the wall is below where the cantilever will hang. However, the wall would be ruined if it stayed in place during construction, so Rockrimmon Constructors will temporarily remove it, labeling each rock so that the wall can be rebuilt after the project to look like it did originally, Badger explained.
       Although such preservation efforts may sound extreme, they have been employed on at least a couple of other interstate projects, he noted.
       The drainage detention pond wasn't in the original plan. But because COSMIX is a design-build project - allowing flexibility in the work - the pond was recently added based on a new federal requirement for controlling drainage on interstate projects, he said.
       A ripple effect from that change is that the El Paso County Department of Human Services (DHS), located in a nearby building off Spruce Street, will lose out on using the roughly 2,000-square-foot Budget property for added parking. This is on top of the loss of parking spaces that will result from the reworking of the current southbound on-ramp from Bijou - a quaint, old-time-interstate configuration in which the first part of the ramp is like a street and a dozen or so parking spaces are along it.
       Barbara Drake, director of DHS, said she hopes to meet with CDOT soon to discuss parking, as well as potential access conflicts stemming from the project.
       County Commissioner Sallie Clark added her concern about what the detention pond will look like, located in such a visible place at a key off-ramp for the downtown and the Westside.
       The $150-million COSMIX project, which started last year and will continue through 2007, is widening I-25 from South Circle Drive to North Academy Boulevard to six lanes. Construction includes new interchanges at Bijou Street and North Nevada Avenue/ Rockrimmon Boulevard. At Bijou, closing the bridge for nine months, as planned, will enable the old span to be more speedily removed and a new one built in its place. The Colorado Avenue bridge work is also slated to end in the fall of 2007. There will be no closures from that work, although traffic on the interstate or the avenue will be impacted at times, according to Badger.

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