Every week, actually almost every day, brings new stories about Colorado’s latest “gambling” operation — also known as driving Interstate 25 to and from Denver.
Actually, your chances are better playing the slot machines in Cripple Creek. Much better. Out on I-25, the odds are stacked totally against you, with no jackpots. The best you can do is finish the drive, either way, without ruining your plans for the rest of that day or night.
If you live or work north of Colorado Springs, or simply have to make the trip to Denver on a regular basis, you understand. Even before the $67 million project started, statistics showed more than 100,000 cars filled I-25 on any typical day, totaling close to 6 million miles daily on the north-south freeway that slices through El Paso County.
That traffic load convinced the state to address the serious need for three lanes on each side of I-25 from north Colorado Springs to the Douglas County line. The project began early this year, with officials promising to move it along as quickly as possible.
We’d like to propose something different during night hours,
until the work is done.
But in this case, quickly isn’t fast enough.
The state’s initial goal for completing the 11-mile project was by the end of 2014. But Kiewit Infrastructure Co., which won the contract, has been trying to finish as soon as this Dec. 31, unless weather delays drag it into next spring or early summer.
Meanwhile, countless thousands of area residents and visitors have suffered. For months, we’ve heard — and experienced first-hand — the maddening trauma of taking an hour or more just to drive from central Colorado Springs northward to Monument.
Add even the slightest fender-bender or vehicle breakdown, and we’re talking about anywhere from two to three hours, just one way to or from Denver.
It’s impacting people, and it’s impacting businesses.
We have no way of knowing whether winter will come early (leaves already are turning ahead of schedule in the high country), but we could be looking at six to nine more months before the I-25 widening is done. And most congestion, especially at night with lane closures, takes place between the exits for Briargate and the Gleneagle/Air Force Academy north entrance.
Given that, and the rising chance of wintry weather coming into play, we’d like to propose something different, especially during night hours, until the work is done. Why not divert at least one side of I-25 each night through the east edge of the Air Force Academy — from the North Gate in to Stadium Drive, then proceeding south all the way to the South Gate and back to I-25 at the North Academy Boulevard interchange?
Yes, it would present security challenges, but it would make the remaining work easier, perhaps faster. And in this issue, we report that the Academy already might pull back its security borders for a proposed visitors center at Falcon Stadium, allowing tourists far deeper into the AFA grounds. Those Air Force folks already know about handling major traffic volume for home football games. It would mean additional manpower, keeping the detoured I-25 traffic moving through without taking a wrong turn, but that would be worth the expense.
Even if just for a handful of months, it could make life less stressful on I-25.
Regardless, we can only hope the work finishes as soon as possible, for the sake of people, businesses and sanity.