OWN blesses pedestrian overpass proposal

       A citizen proposal for a pedestrian overpass at 25th Street, as part of the state's future Highway 24 expansion project, gained the approval of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) board at its meeting Nov. 11.
       The board listened to a presentation from Kenyon Jordan, representing the Westside Pioneer, which had initiated the idea as an “editorial campaign” when the highway expansion planning effort started in 2004.

When built in 1917, the 25th Street bridge carried southbound traffic across Fountain Creek en route to the street's Midland railroad crossing. Highway 24, built in the early 1960s, cut off 25th Street at that point, but a proposed pedestrian overpass would restore part of the connection.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The Pioneer at that time had gathered petition signatures from Midland-area residents, whose pedestrians have faced challenges crossing the highway since it was built in the early 1960s.
       According to OWN President Welling Clark, the neighborhood-advocacy group will send letters to area entities that could sway the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to include the overpass as a safety enhancement deserving of project funding.
       CDOT's draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the expansion plan currently includes an at-grade intersection at 26th Street. According to CDOT project leader Dave Watt at the Oct. 28 OWN meeting, the $240 million project could include the suggested pedestrian overpass at 25th Street - but only if local governments wanted to pay for it. He gave the current estimated cost as $500,000.
       Watt said the project planning team believes that pedestrians would be able to cross safely at 26th despite an expansion project that would widen Highway 24 from four to six lanes between I-25 and Ridge Road.
       One question the OWN board asked the Pioneer Nov. 11 was whether enough people would use a pedestrian overpass at 25th to justify its expense. No formal survey has been done, although, as the Pioneer has previously reported, pedestrians/bicyclists cross there now. The extent of this practice is evident in that there is a break in the fence at 25th Street on each side of the highway, and it has been that way for many years.
       The Pioneer thinking is that vehicle traffic is light on 25th, that the bridge would provide a safer pedestrian access, especially for children and the elderly, and that the amenity could even increase the number of Old Colorado City shoppers.
       The proposal includes the suggestion that at least some of the overpass money could be found by rethinking the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) project list that currently budgets $464,000 to replace the 25th Street bridge at Naegele Road by 2013. Meanwhile, under the CDOT expansion plans, the bridge would be removed.
       The Pioneer suggestion to OWN is that the RTA consider repairing instead of replacing the historically styled span and use the savings toward the future pedestrian overpass.
       CDOT has considered the 25th Street idea, Watt said. In 2008, he had suggested the amenity could be funded under a federal requirement to “mitigate” such project impacts as separation of the Midland neighborhood from Old Colorado City and the adverse effect on two public schools north of the highway (West Middle and Coronado High School) of having to bus in Midland-area students south of the highway. In 2009, CDOT open houses on aesthetic guidelines for the project included a a historically styled design for a pedestrian bridge at 25th Street.
       An actual construction date for the Highway 24 expansion is unknown, although CDOT officials have said it is likely to be phased in over time. The most recent estimate for the 26th Street work (by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments) is sometime after 2030.

Westside Pioneer article