Traffic study to look at Fillmore impacts

       A traffic study has begun, seeking ways to alleviate Fillmore Street traffic west of I-25.

A view down the Fillmore Street hill takes in the recently terrace-graded Palmer House redevelopment site (opposite site of the street at left) and the typically crowded I-25 interchange including the Chestnut Street intersection at the bottom of the hill (far right).
Westside Pioneer photo

       The several-month effort, which is slated to include one or more public meetings, will seek answers to the congestion which is likely to increase as businesses start opening over the months ahead in the 14-acre Palmer House commercial center northwest of Fillmore and Chestnut Street. “We'll look at existing roadway conditions and what we can do to improve them,” said Tim Roberts, a city traffic planner. “Obviously the problem area is Chestnut Street, I-25 and Fillmore.”
       Recent grading work has terraced the Palmer House property along Fillmore for future development. No tenants are yet lined up, but city approval was given last year for 76,000 square feet of commercial space, plus a hotel. The project is planned by Crestone Development, doing business as Bella Fortuna Inc.
       The traffic study will be conducted by HDR, a nationwide engineering and consulting company, with the cost shared by the city and Bella Fortuna. A public “kickoff meeting” - inviting homeowner groups from the area - will be scheduled in January, Roberts said.
       The Palmer House developer was required to contribute to the study based on a city analysis last year when the construction proposal was submitted. The traffic congestion now “is well below operations standards and has shown to back up traffic onto I-25.” the analysis states, adding that “the additional traffic proposed for this site will increase traffic on the I-25 off-ramps from 10 to 14 percent as well as extend queue lengths on Fillmore by 4 to 11 percent.”
       As Roberts put it in a recent interview, the development “is going to be adding problems to existing problems.”
       Key to the study - but unpredictable- are three planned, major construction projects in the area.
  • New Fillmore/I-25 interchange - As part of the 2004 environmental assessment for the I-25 widening through Colorado Springs, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) proposed a modern structure which would move traffic more efficiently and which would be simplified by rerouting the Chestnut crossing about 200 feet north of the interchange.
  • Fillmore Street - slated for widening to six lanes between I-25 and Centennial Boulevard in 2013 and 2014 as a Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) A- list project
  • The Centennial Boulevard extension between Fillmore and the Fontanero interchange extension, which would take some of the traffic off Fillmore as well as Chestnut, according to traffic planners.
           What makes each of these unpredictable is their funding uncertainities:
           Interchange - CDOT has no funding source for this work yet, and informal regional construction priorities give it a start date as no sooner than 2020.
           Fillmore widening - With sagging proceeds from the RTA's 1-cent sales tax, there is no guarantee that there will be sufficient money by 2013 and 2014 to pay its nearly $7 million cost, according to Rick Sonnenburg, program manager for the RTA.
           Centennial extension - It is only about 20 percent complete (cumulatively in two unconnected development projects along its 1 ˝-mile route), there is no completion schedule because the economy has slowed development in that area, and the city has no money for the roughly quarter-mile segment it would have to build either.

    Westside Pioneer article