Public asked to ‘envision’ Westside Hwy 24 upgrade
First meeting in CDOT process scheduled Nov. 18

       For 40 years, anyone wanting to view an unchanging part of the Westside could simply access Highway 24. Going west from I- 25, the four-lane, divided highway - also called Cimarron Street, Midland Expressway and US 24 - carried motorists through a stark, barely vegetated landscape to Manitou Springs, with the only noticeable changes over the years being upgrades of varying degrees at the 8th, 21st, 26th and 31st street intersections.
       In the meantime, much of the Westside has infilled, the city's population as a whole has roughly quadrupled, and Ute Pass has become an increasingly larger “bedroom town” for Colorado Springs.
       What this all means to Westside Highway 24 will be decided in the months ahead, starting with an open house and workshop from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18. The meeting, sponsored by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), will be at the West Intergenera-tional Center, 25 N. 20th St. The first hour will be an informal period, in which members of the public are invited to drop in and meet CDOT engineers and consultants. The workshop, beginning at 6:30, will consist of an explanation of the project process and an informal question-answer session, according to Bob Wilson of CDOT public relations.
       The open house will begin the effort to develop an Environmental Assessment (EA) “to address mobility and safety issues from Manitou Springs to Interstate 25,” according to a press release for the effort, which has been titled “Envision 24 West - the Entryway.”
       Wilson said the meeting will be the first of several, pointing to the goal of CDOT's creating a draft EA by the first part of 2006. A final EA, which would be submitted to the federal government for approval to allow putting the work out to bid, is not anticipated for about 2 ½ years, he said.
       The next meeting date has not yet been set, but will be sometime in February next year, Wilson said, then fall into a schedule of every other month until January 2006.
       In addition to meetings, people can call the project phone (477-4970), or go to the project website:
       Informal discussions have mentioned a possible widening to six lanes and overpasses at 8th and 21st, even a new stoplight at 14th Street, but none of these proposals is certain, CDOT engineers have said, adding that alternative transportation ideas, such as improved transit, will be considered.
       Another part of the press information states the following: “US 24 provides a vital east/west connection for the Pikes Peak region and is the only major access to the mountains between US 285 in Denver and US 50 through Pueblo. This heavily used highway is an important tourist route, but it also is regionally significant because it serves the Cripple Creek gaming area, daily commuter traffic into and out of Colorado Springs, residential and business access, plus intra-city east/west trips. This corridor is currently congested and is expected to see continued growth in traffic for the next 20 years. Without improvements to US 24, congestion will likely increase.”
       A preliminary public process already has occurred - through the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG). PPACG has included the segment in its five-year reports - most recently the one titled “Transportation Improvement Program (FY2005 through FY2010)” - after seeking public input on the matter from October 2002 to July 2003.

Westside Pioneer Article from a press release