Cone zone from 2012 to 2022?
Westside Highway 24 construction estimates come out of meeting

       Engineers planning the Westside Highway 24 expansion for the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT) used the opportunity of the first Working Group meeting July 19 to state or clarify some key points about the effort.
       One point involved scheduling. Assuming the project's Environmental Assessment gets approved at local, state and federal levels (the hoped-for time frame is late 2007), the earliest that any construction money is likely to be allocated is 2012. Then, because of the probability that the estimated $240 million would not be available all at once, the building process would extend over the ensuing 5 to 10 years, according to Mary Jo Vobejda, the consultant project lead from CH2M HILL.
       A point that was not clarified concerned the traffic projections that CDOT is using to justify the scope of the project. After Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) President Welling Clark charged that these numbers were inconsistent in terms of population and job growth, Vobejda said an effort would be made at the next meeting (Aug. 2) to bring in the appropriate person from the Pikes Peak Area Council of Govern-ments (PPACG), which generated those numbers.
       The Working Group consists of people with broad levels of community influence. Those at the July 19 meeting included a member of Senator Ken Salazar's office (former City Councilman Richard Skorman); a member of Congressman Joel Hefley's office (former County Commissioner Lorne Whittemore); State Representative Michael Merrifield; County Commissioner Sallie Clark; City Council members Tom Gallagher and Randy Purvis; Manitou Springs Mayor Marcy Morrison; Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) President Jan Doran; Gold Hill Mesa development manager Bob Willard; Angler's Covey owner Dave Leinweber; Ed Rudolph of Van Briggle Pottery; and people from the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group, Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Auth-ority (RTA), Pikes Peak Attractions, Skyway Home-owners Association and OWN.
       Explaining the study's progress were six people from CDOT's Westside Highway 24 team.
       Sallie Clark, who fears the current state plans are too big, formed the group in hopes of gathering new ideas from community leaders and working on them with CDOT.
       One idea she offered at the meeting was for an interchange at 31st Street instead of 21st. This would “take the bullseye off Angler's Covey” - which would be impacted or eliminated in every 21st Street option - and put such a concrete footprint in a locale which, unlike 21st, has a lot of undeveloped land around it, she said.
       A 31st Street interchange had been proposed when the state was still thinking about a freeway for the 4 1/2-mile study area between I-25 and Manitou Springs, but it was taken off the table when the expressway alternative was chosen this spring.
       Another idea from the meeting, proposed by Rudolph, was that CDOT include cost estimates with each of the roughly 20 intersection design options still under consideration. “Nobody does it this way,” he said, referring to CDOT's lack of specific pricetags. Cost information would help people make “practical decisions,” he said.
       Vobejda did not say what might happen with either of these ideas.
       Other points that came out of the meeting:
      
  • An at-grade intersection at 21st Street remains among the design options being presented, but only “because of public input,” commented Chuck Gustafson of the CDOT consulting firm Wilson & Company. “It does not meet the requirements of the public agencies we have to go through.”
          
  • A CDOT analysis of a locally proposed “shortcut” between 14th and 21st streets - to relieve traffic at the 21st Street intersection - will be complete in “two to three weeks,” according to Vobejda.
          
  • The state is no longer considering its three options for the Manitou interchange that are not full access. These had proven unpopular with citizens leaving comments at the last meeting May 10. The two remaining options are a “safety improvements” version that would keep the present alignment and one that includes a new westbound off-ramp loop that would eliminate the Sinclair station.
           The Aug. 2 meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the Regional Building office complex.

    Westside Pioneer article