Local committees oppose Hwy 24 options

       Both local committees in the Westside Highway 24 planning effort have taken positions against the alternatives proposed by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and its consultants, the Westside Pioneer has learned.
       The lack of political unity has become apparent on the eve of the open house Thursday, Nov. 10 at which CDOT will unveil its plans to the public. The 5-8 p.m. drop-in session, at which comments are encouraged, will be at West Intergenerational Center, 25 N. 20th St.
       “It's humongous and it's overkill,” said Westsider/Dis-trict 3 County Commissioner Sallie Clark. “I'm personally shocked at the size of the whole proposal and I want to see it sized down.”
       Clark is a member of the Executive Leadership Team, which includes several area elected officials. Both she and Bill Koerner, a member of the Technical Advisory Committee - consisting primarily of local government staff engineers - said their groups have agreed by consensus they want less massive alternatives than CDOT is currently proposing to solve traffic jams along a 6 1/2- mile stretch between I-25 and Manitou Springs.
       The committees have been holding separate meetings with CDOT throughout the planning process that started a year ago. The idea, as explained, is to help CDOT to stay in tune with what local governments want.
       At the open house, the public is being asked to decide between a freeway (about the width of I-25's 128 feet) or an expressway (about 50 feet wider). The current width is about 90 feet.
       CDOT engineers have said that anything smaller would fail to address increasing traffic counts along the Highway 24 corridor - local as well as far-flung - and would grade too low at the federal level to even receive funding.
       A no-build option is also on the table, although it is not seen as a viable option because of the growing traffic (2,000 new cars a year).
       Koerner, a retired engineer and former mayor of Manitou Springs, said one aspect he dislikes is the huge swath either type of CDOT-proposed alternative would cut through the Westside. “It chops it in half,” he said. “Community wholeness should be encouraged, not pushed apart.”
       While recognizing that air pollution can result from traffic jams, Clark said she would like to see a “fourth option” for the Westside segment - one that “fits with the image of the Westside and Manitou. We want to encourage people to stop here, not book it through.”
       Technically oriented suggestions Koerner has made to CDOT are to re-examine the demographics (to ensure that the predicted number of drivers in coming years will really increase at the foreseen rate) and to scale back the planning date of 2030 to perhaps 2025, so that the traffic numbers won't be so high. “A lot can change in 20 years,” he said. He also thinks local residents ought to have a chance to decide how much gridlock they can put up with. “Is it worth it (the proposed construction) just to avoid tourist traffic for 10 days in August?” he asked.

Westside Pioneer article