Design funds OK’d for new Cimarron/I-25
If construction $ awarded, work would start in ‘14

       Construction funds remain an unknown, but at least the right of way can be purchased and a design created for a new interchange at Cimarron/I-25.
       This was the bottom line of a September decision by the Colorado Transportation Commission to allocate $6 million toward the project ($5 million for design and $1 million for right of way).
       The plan is to hire a consulting firm between December and February and have the design work done within a year, according to Doug Lollar of the Colorado Department of Transpor-tation (CDOT).
       In the same time frame, CDOT staffers will seek to finish the purchase process for several properties northwest and one southwest of the interchange - needed for planned roadway/ramp reconfigurations - and to relocate affected businesses, he said in an interview this week.
       Lollar, the program engineer for the portion of CDOT's Region 2 that includes Colorado Springs, also offered a glimpse of the possible future beyond that: “Assuming construction funds become available, we anticipate construction starting in mid- to late 2014. It will probably take 24 months.”
       Why so long? “It's currently one large structure,” Lollar said of the roughly half-century-old current interchange. “I expect the design will show two separate structures over Cimar-ron, one in each direction. The project will have to be phased over the entire period because we want to keep traffic moving on both the highway and interstate. It's a pretty complex project.”
       Most of the construction funds would need to come from the federal government. The current estimated cost is $95 million.
       On the design, Lollar elaborated that the consultant will only be asked to detail 25 percent of the project. Similar to the I-25 widening (COSMIX) project from 2004 to 2007, the construction contractor is supposed to hammer out the remaining 75 percent in conjunction with the actual work - an approach called “design-build.”
       “This allows some innovation on larger, complex projects,” Lollar explained. “The contractor can bring in proprietary approaches that we may not have thought of.”
       Elements of the interchange design are already on the shelf. The COSMIX Environmental Assessment (EA) conceptualized a ramp layout that remains much the same, and the 2012 US 24 West EA updated the highway configuration under the interstate to be like the one under I-25 at Garden of the Gods Road, according to Dave Watt, CDOT resident engineer for this area.
       The stage was set for the Transportation Commission action by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) Board of Directors designating Cimarron/I-25 as its high-priority regional project earlier this year. “I think that definitely had a positive effect on the commission's decision,” Watt said.
       Previously, the PPACG board (consisting of elected officials from area governments) had allocated $4.2 million for the right of way northwest of the interchange. That money has since been augmented with $800,000 from CDOT, said PPACG Transportation Director Craig Casper (raising the total amount available for the northwest right of way to $5 million).
       The needed northwest properties were initially identified in the environmental assessment leading up to COSMIX, and those have not changed, Watt said. Right of way efforts there are already under way, with appraisals almost complete, Watt said.
       The new $1 million from the Transportation Commis-sion will be used toward the purchase of an acre of property on the southwest side of the interchange; no building will have to be removed there, he said.
       The total project cost that officials have announced for Cimarron/I-25 is $106 million. That number is the total of the costs discussed above, Casper said - $95 million (construction), $5 million (northwest right of way), $1 million (southwest right of way) and $5 million (design).
       The Transportation Commission allocation for Cimarron-I-25 came from recently identified CDOT reserve dollars.
       The current interchange is about 50 years old. “We're certainly seeing signs of congestion there today,” Watt said.

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