On 2nd thought, maybe new bridge should stay
25th Street span at issue in Hwy 24 project

       The flyer for the Aug. 28 Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Envision 24 West open house reveals the state concept of removing the 25th Street bridge over Fountain Creek as part of a major highway widening
       This would appear to contradict separate Colorado Springs plans to install a new bridge there in the year 2012, using Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) dollars,
       Not necessarily, said two CDOT planning team members in an interview this week. CDOT has been talking to the city/RTA and is even open to the idea of keeping a bridge there, explained CDOT Envision lead Dave Watt and consultant Mary Jo Vobejda of CH2M HILL. With the highway project not scheduled in that location until the late 2020s, possibilities include transforming an RTA-built bridge into a pedestrian crossing or rehabbing the old span (circa 1917) for the same purpose to add a historic flavor. “There's no reason it couldn't be designed in a way that it couldn't become a pedestrian bridge,” Vobejda said.
       There could also be a tie-in with a pedestrian overpass at 25th Street - a citizen-proposed idea that is a candidate for funding as part of the overall project, Watt and Vobejda said.
       The Aug. 28 open house will be at the West Intergenerational Center, 25 N. 20th St., from 5 to 7 p.m. The event, to which the public is invited, will include updated displays of the proposed improvements between I-25 and Manitou Springs and opportunities to talk to project engineers. People are encouraged to ask questions or to introduce any “additional corridor treatments” that they might not have mentioned before.
       Open house attendees will also be given the chance to sign up for a temporary aesthetics committee that would “develop the look of the expressway,” as the flyer puts it. The group would look at such issues as lighting, gateway features, bridges, wayfinding, signing, colors and wall treatments, the flyer states.
       Vobejda elaborated that this committee would meet “three or four times and be finished by early 2009.” The goal, she said, would be to develop “aesthetic guidelines” that would be adopted into the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project that is to be submitted for federal review in 2010.
       A pedestrian overpass at 25th Street could be funded by the project under a requirement to “mitigate” project impacts, Watt and Vobejda said. The main impact in this case would be a greater separation of a neighborhood (the Midland area) from Old Colorado City and two attendance-area public schools (West Middle and Coronado High School). An at-grade crossing would still be possible at 26th Street; the state also analyzes whether enough people would use an overpass to justify the construction expense of close to $2 million. In addition, in keeping with CDOT policy, future maintenance of the structure would be the responsibility of the local area, Watt and Vobejda said.
       Based on the plans that will be shown Aug. 28, other places where pedestrians could safely go over (or under) the highway would be as part of the planned interchanges at 8th and 21st streets and the highway overpass at Ridge Road.
       The only other separate pedestrian overpass being looked at for the project is at 15th Street, according to CDOT; however, that situation is complicated because 15th is primarily being studied for an overpass - not funded by the project - that would link the future Gold Hill Mesa neighborhood on the south side of the highway with the old neighborhood on the north side (which has expressed opposition because of traffic concerns).
       Another at-grade crossing, 31st Street, is not currently proposed for a pedestrian overpass, Vobejda said. However, issues in that regard could come up, she added, depending on how plans proceed for an express bus park-and-ride that is tentatively located at the northeast corner of the highway and 31st.
       Open house attendees can also learn about the status of the highway's “greenway.” Meetings on this topic occurred throughout last year. According to Vobejda, “the city and everyone are in concurrence” on the concept of creating a recreational area, chiefly along the north side of the highway, between about 8th and 31st streets. The land for the greenway would not be purchased as such - it would be “excess” land, varying in width, that would result from property purchases related to the highway widening. The state might help with some of the greenway construction, again for mitigation reasons, but future maintenance would fall on local entities, she said.

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