The Colorado Department of Transportation is in the final stages of completing an environmental assessment of a proposal to widen Interstate 25. If approved, the improvements to the roadway could eventually cost $500 million.
A forum was held last week to provide information about the proposal and to gather input from those who might be impacted by the construction. The state began soliciting public comment March 29, and will accept ideas and recommendations until May 12.
One of the affects of adding additional lanes to the interstate will involve right-of-way issues. The initial construction work on the interstate will not affect residences or businesses, said Dave Poling, program director with the state Department of Transportation. Eventually, though, some businesses and residences will need to relocate or be bought out.
The department is talking with business owners at the Bijou Street exit and the Colorado Avenue exit about their options. Businesses at the Bijou Street exit that are likely to be affected include Western Convenience, a gas station and convenience store, and Budget Rent-A-Car.
Alan Prudic, right-of-way supervisor with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said the department has identified 11 businesses that will need to be bought out or relocated.
“We have met with four businesses regarding the Colorado Department of Transportation’s acquisition stage relocation plan,” Prudic said. “This is a stringent process that is designed to be fair to the homeowners and businesses. So far, we’ve found that those involved are taking the news as well as could be expected.”
If the environmental assessment is approved, Prudic said the department can make offers to the property owners.
Interstate 25 was built in the early 1960s and served 8,500 vehicles daily. Currently, more than 100,000 motorists travel on the roadway each day.
El Paso County’s population has reached more than 517,000, and based on projections by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Goverments, 750,000 people will live here by 2025. “Colorado Springs has grown by 400 percent since Interstate 25 was built,” said Doug Eberhart of Wilson and Co., which has been helping with the environmental assessment. “With our consistent growing population, we really need to do this. There will be some trade-offs with time, money and inconveniences, but it will be well worth it.”
The initial phase of the widening project involves increasing capacity to three lanes in each direction for 26 miles, from South Academy Boulevard to the Monument exit at Highway 105.
Eberhart said the project will resemble putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The work will involve rebuilding some interchanges and “connecting the dots with the new lanes,” he said. “We will build some temporary lanes along the span of the work and shift traffic to those lanes at times. We will also work at non-peak traffic times and at night.”
Thus far, $120 million from bond proceeds has been set aside for the first phase of improvements, which includes adding lanes from Circle Drive to Briargate Parkway.
How to pay for the remainder of the project has not been decided. Money could come from the sale of additional bonds or from a one cent sales tax increase. The decision whether to put the sales tax increase on the ballot in November has not been made.
The Department of Transportation also recommends the following improvements to ease congestion on I-25:
n Rebuilding interchanges at Baptist Road, Northgate Road/Powers Boulevard, North Nevada Avenue/Rockrimmon Boulevard, Fillmore Street, Bijou Street and Cimarron Street;
n Adding a through lane in each direction between Briargate Parkway and the Martin Luther King/ U.S. 24 bypass for use by carpools and buses during peak travel times (the lane would be open to all traffic during non-peak times);
n Installing noise reducing walls and berms for portions of Monument Valley Park and several neighborhoods;
n Developing a plan to minimize the impact of construction impacts and to protect and enhance Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse habitat.
The Department of Transportation expects to have a decision from the Highway Administration by July.
The assessment, which took three years to complete, is available online at www.i25environment.com and contains technical information about the environmental, social and economic impact that the proposed widening will have on the area.