Proposed area transportation list for years 2010-2017 missing 2 key interchanges

       Through Sept. 1, the public is being invited to comment on a Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) draft plan identifying the regional transportation projects that have the best chances of being built between 2010 and 2017.

A vehicle rolls across the nearly 100-year-old bridge over Fountain Creek on 25th Street. The left arrow leads traffic onto Naegele Road, and a car can be seen in the background on Highway 24. The bridge is listed on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and is due for replacement as a Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) project; however, alternatives are being weighed, considering that Naegele would be eliminated as part of a future Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) widening of Highway 24. According to Dave Watt, CDOT's lead on the widening plan, "the city will determine whether to replace the bridge as planned, repair as an interim measure or leave as is for some period of time." Note: If you want to read or comment on the TIP, call 471-7080 x139 or go to ppacg.org.
Westside Pioneer photo

       For the Westside, four projects are listed on what's formally known as the draft 2010-2017 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
       Missing, however, are replacements for two I-25 interchanges that have been frequently mentioned as causes of Westside traffic backups over the past several years.
       These are the Cimarron/I-25 and Fillmore/I-25 interchanges, both of which were deemed important enough by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to be included in its environmental assessment for the I-25 widening project five years ago. However, both were left out of the actual project (called COSMIX) because there wasn't enough money to build them.
       The same reason exists for the draft TIP omission. “We don't have the money to fund it,” said Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) transportation planner Craig Casper, when asked specifically about Cimarron. “It's $90 million, and we have to actually have the money identified as real to put projects in the TIP.”
       A new Fillmore interchange is also currently priced at about $90 million. It also has no funding in the near future, according to information coming out of an ongoing planning study of transportation issues in and around Fillmore. As a result, the planners are now looking at changes to Chestnut Street - using existing Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) money - to help relieve congestion on the interchange.
       A new Cimarron/I-25 interchange, along with a planned grade separation at nearby Eighth and Cimarron Street (which is also Highway 24), could relieve a traffic bottleneck, but plans for the latter project - part of the Westside Highway 24 widening proposal - are not finalized yet, let alone funded.
       Ironically, as Casper has noted previously, it's often easier to fund smaller, lower-priority projects because larger amounts of money (such as $90 million) don't become available at one time that often.
       And, if such money did come in, the Cimarron interchange would be competing with other large projects in the area, El Paso County Commission Sallie Clark pointed out. These include all the I-25 and Powers Boulevard projects (Stewart Interchange and northern Powers Boulevard extension) and the Powers interchanges at Briargate and Union, she explained.
       “The fact that it's [Cimarron/I-25] not currently in the TIP means only that it's not funded in the upcoming six years,” Clark said. “However, it is identified in the 2035 plan and I continue to bring it up when we discuss it at PPACG (last month in fact) regarding its importance to the Westside and our citizens in El Paso, Teller and Park as well.”
       Dave Watt, CDOT's lead engineer on the Highway 24 widening proposal, told the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) this week that he believes work on Westside Highway 24 could begin as early as 2016, and it would most likely be in the area near I-25. Asked after the CTAB meeting about the likelihood of that happening, he said it's true that right now funding is scarce, but the availability of such money has gone up and down in the past, so history would indicate the situation will improve in the future.
       Below are listed the four Westside projects - all of them funded - as shown in the TIP (including their implementation years and funding sources):
  • Bus Route 14 stop improvements, this year - $132,000 (federal) and $33,000 (local matching funds).
  • 25th Street bridge replacement at Naegele Road, 2012 - $392,000 (Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority “A” project).
  • Continued planning for Highway 24 widening project through the Westside, 2011-2013 - $900,000 (federal/state funds).
  • Midland Trail extension, 2010 - $300,000 (federal), $75,000 (local), $236,077 (Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funds).

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