Overpasses suggested in newest local Hwy 24 plan

       A modified version of the “Westsiders' Option” - which seeks to save homes and businesses - surfaced at the Westside Highway 24 Working Group meeting Aug. 2.
       The plan, presented by Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) Presi-dent Welling Clark, retains the two-lanes-each-way goal from an earlier “West-siders' Option,” but adds the feature of a full-access overpass at every intersection.
       “This is a concept that's more neighborhood-friendly than what we previously proposed,” said Clark. He added the confidence that even at 21st Street - where all of CDOT's options would impact numerous homes or businesses - an overpass could be engineered so no properties would be adversely affected.
       Although no vote was taken at the meeting - the attendees being an informal grouping of area business and civic leaders - there was no opposition, and representatives of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) agreed to look at it in detail.
       Mary Jo Vobejda, lead engineer for CDOT consultant CH2M HILL, said that in terms of traffic flow the plan was like the freeway alternative CDOT had previously proposed and as such could probably work at two lanes. The main difference is at the intersections, where CDOT has proposed broad interchanges while Clark suggests tight overpasses that would take up less space by narrowing the median for the road underneath.
       A key reason why CDOT opted earlier this year not to pursue a freeway alternative was that Old Colorado City merchants had opposed an overpass that might discourage access. Clark said
       Whether Clark's proposed overpasses could handle the CDOT-anticipated amount of side traffic is an open question. Earlier in the meeting, Vobejda announced that the 14th-to-Broadway-Street shortcut - proposed in the previous Westsiders' Option - would not reduce traffic at 21st and Highway 24 quite enough (based on year 2030 traffic projections) to prevent the need for a triple left turn at 21st Street if the intersection keeps a traffic signal instead of being transformed into a full interchange.
       Another blow to locals seeking a less giant project came at the meeting when Tom Ragland, a transportation consultant for the CH2M Hill said that the project will soon be using year 2035 traffic projections, which are sure to be higher than those of 2030. However, Clark, who has been researching the PPACG numbers, said he still believes there are fundamental issues with how the data is being applied. As an example, PPACG numbers show Manitou Springs with no population increase over the next 25 years but higher traffic numbers. At the next Working Group meeting Wednesday, Aug. 16, Clark will get a chance to match numbers with Craig Casper of PPACG, who has worked most closely with the projections CDOT is using.
       CDOT's Westside Highway 24 project team will not be able to attend that meeting, CDOT engineering lead Dave Watt advised, saying too much time will be needed to prepare for the next public open house/meeting, which was recently scheduled Thursday, Aug. 24 at the West Intergenerational Center. However, he agreed to bring his team to a Working Group meeting Sept. 11.
       Although Clark has not yet presented his modified plan to Westsiders - let alone a meeting of the OWN board - the plan is similar in many respects to the original Westside Pioneer “do no harm” plan published last March and an ensuing OWN version that expanded the concept of acceleration/decleration lanes. Clark said he wanted to get the plan before the Working Group as soon as possible. He also hopes to display it at the Aug. 24 meeting and possibly to Westsiders in some venue before that.
       The Working Group, formed last month by County Commissioner/ Westside leader Sallie Clark, has met three times now. Attendees have included area representatives of city, county, state and federal offices as well as businesses and neighborhood groups. Elected officials at the Aug. 2 meeting, in addition to Clark, were State Representative Michael Merrifield and City Council members Larry Small (also vice-mayor) and Randy Purvis.

Westside Pioneer article