I-25 improvements ahead of schedule

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Excess Colorado State General Fund money will be used to begin two high priority projects regarding the safety of the Interstate 25 corridor in Colorado Springs, essentially relieving some traffic congestion.

The two projects are expected to cost approximately $18 million and will be put to bid in November, with construction to begin in January 1997.

The first project concerns safety issues of getting on and off the heavily trafficked North Academy Boulevard and I-25 interchange. Dave Poling, region design engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said two exit loops of the cloverleaf interchange will be removed and replaced with more traditional "slip ramps," which are straight, long ramps that allow for safer merging.

Project cost is estimated at $8 million. Other improvements for North Academy between the interchange and the Highway 83 junction are included in the project.

The second project, which will also bid in November and start in January, is the noise barrier wall between the Interstate and the Mesa Springs neighborhood between Bijou and Fillmore streets. The $9.4 million project will include landscaping requested by the neighborhood and is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.

Poling said these two projects were ready to go quickly due to a $10 million loan from the Southwest Water Project, which allowed C-DOT to gain the necessary right-of-ways between Bijou and Fillmore. That and the high priority placed on the Colorado Springs stretch of I-25 contributed to receiving the funding.

C-DOT, in anticipation of similar money being available next year, has the restructuring of the southbound lane of I-25 between Bijou and Fillmore on its drawing board. The project, which will be ready to fund in July will include improvements to access for the Uintah Street and Fontanero Street exits also. Poling stressed that much of the work that will be done in the next five to six years will address safety concerns as opposed to capacity issues.

Capacity issues cropped up in last year’s election when studies revealed that 95,000 vehicles per day traveled the Interstate, which was designed to handle 58,000 vehicles per day. Safety issues also came to light with a 30% increase in traffic from 1993 to mid-1995 and a 60% increase in traffic accidents in the same period. Of the 29-mile corridor the legislature identified as high priority, 85% of it is local.