Single-presentation format, Q/A session planned for next Hwy 24 meeting Aug. 24

       For all but the first half-hour of the next public meeting on the proposed Westside Highway 24 expansion, attendees will be grouped together in the West Middle School auditorium, where they can listen to state engineers' presentations and ask questions.
       The date will be Thursday, Aug. 24. The overall time frame will be 5:30 to 8 p.m. Entrance will be through the West Intergenerational Center, 25 N. 20th St.
       The first half-hour, from 5:30 to 6 p.m., will offer the open house format that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and its consultants have used for all of the past six of eight public meetings at West since the planning process began in November 2004. The different CDOT options for expanding the highway between I-25 and Manitou Springs will be on display in the band room, cafeteria and dance room, and engineers will be available for one-on-one questions and answers, according to project spokesperson Kyle Blakely.
       At 6 p.m., the meeting is scheduled to move to the auditorium. The first hour will consist of a projected-screen presentation of the 20-some expressway options, including some from the May 10 meeting as well as more recent variations that incorporate a Westside-proposed Gold Hill Mesa “shortcut” to reduce traffic at 21st Street.
       The final hour, 7 to 8 p.m., will be left open for questions.
       According to Mary Jo Vobejda of CH2M HILL, CDOT's lead consulting firm, the highway graphics will continue to be aerial in nature, as they have been since the first expansion options were revealed at the public meeting last November. She said elevation information is still being finalized, although state project team members have divulged at recent meetings with various interest groups that typical interchanges would be 20-25 feet high and that a possible four-high ramp system coming off I-25 down to Eighth Street would be 65 to 75 feet high.
       Vobejda said she was hopeful that by Aug. 24 CDOT might have completed an engineering review of a modified Westsiders' Option that suggests lower-impact overpasses rather than large interchanges or broad, at-grade intersections.
       The Aug. 24 meeting format change was in response to complaints that the open house format was becoming frustrating to some members of the public. Issues included confusion about the plethora of options, inability to see displays because of the numbers of people, and not everyone hearing the same information from engineers.
       Meeting late-comers may have trouble finding a seat. Since November, meeting attendance has averaged just under 250 people each time, and the West auditorium only seats about 200.
       CDOT hopes to write a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) outlining a favored project design by the end of this year, with a final EA in 2007. The project, which has an estimated price tag of $240 million, currently has no funding.

Westside Pioneer article