The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is sponsoring a new series of eight public outreach meetings for the I-25 Gap project. The first meeting was held at the El Pomar Foundation’s Penrose House Jan. 30. About 15 people attended the session, including El Paso County Commissioners Mark Waller and Longinos Gonzalez Jr.
Unlike some previous meetings where citizens have complained that CDOT officials have given short shrift to citizen comments, the small number of attendees allowed for a more informal question and answer session after a 20-minute presentation by project lead John Hall, Region 2 Resident Engineer.
William Chin complimented CDOT’s new attempt at outreach, saying “This roadshow is a great idea.”
Hall stressed CDOT’s position that managed toll lanes are most effective at managing congestion. Using the US-36 managed lanes as an example he said, “It’s providing bus service and providing the vehicles that have a need an option to get a very reliable trip.” His arguments focused on trip reliability for toll lane users, but also claimed that general purpose lane users also benefit.
He said that the US-36 corridor has seen an overall improvement of 29 percent since the toll lanes opened.
“Twenty of percent of people is what we want in this lane. We don’t want zero or five percent,” he said. If CDOT can’t persuade 20 percent of drivers to pay the toll the highway will not be operating effectively. “We’re going to adapt [the tolls]. It’s not a revenue generating source. Trip reliability is the reason, that’s how we’re going to build and manage it,” Hall said.
“There’s no doubt that by adding a general-purpose lane performance is a lot better than it is today.” But with a toll lane Hall said, “Our projections show that we will always be able to provide some sort of reliable trip.”
The speed at which the project is proceeding is remarkably fast for a federal highway project.
“What we have is a golden opportunity where local agencies, potential funding sources from the federal government, potential funding sources that CDOT has with Senate Bill 267 and the support of agencies like the Federal Highway Administration have all come together to give us this golden opportunity to stack up different things and do an environmental assessment and a design and really try to get a project in a timeline to get something that was just thought about a year ago potentially under construction before the end of this year,” said Hall.
Hall dismissed the idea of redesigning the project to include 4 lanes in each direction. “We study projects to say what really is the need. To say that there is an 8-lane segment of this 18 miles connecting into six lane facilities, it really just extends the problem.”
“I’ve driven it for sixteen years, I kind of shrug my shoulders at the thought that that would really be something that the transportation planners around the state and the local governments would really support,” Hall said.
Tamara Rollison, CDOT Strategic Communication Program Leader said, “As far as what the road will look like, it’s going to be expanded. The question is how will that additional lane be used. There are most definitely concerns in El Paso county about adding an express lane. I can tell you that US-36 is very similar to what the gap is like and when CDOT was considering expanding that by adding an express lane that was met with a great deal of consternation, but it has worked quite well. Just the fact that the lanes are wider, the shoulders are wider, it gives you a little more security. I usually just take the general-purpose lanes.”
More public outreach meetings have been scheduled
In addition to the new outreach meetings, Rollison said, “We will have a public meeting series, these are big public hearings that you’re used to in April in which the public will have access to the environmental assessment and then you can learn more about it at public meetings. We will be collecting comments.”
She expects that the Federal Highway Administration will sign off on the environmental assessment in either April or May.
|Penrose House – Proby Room||1661 Mesa Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80906||Jan. 30||12:30 – 2 p.m.|
|Meadows Park Community Center||1943 S El Paso Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80905||Jan. 31||5:30 – 7 p.m.|
|Rockrimmon Library||832 Village Center Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919||Feb. 5||4:45 – 6:15 p.m.|
|Cheyenne Mountain Library||1785 S 8th St Colorado Springs, CO 80905||Feb. 6||5:30 – 7 p.m.|
|Monument Library||1706 Woodmoor Drive, Monument, CO 81032||Feb. 8||6:45 – 8:15 p.m.|
|Natural Grocers North Academy||7298 North Academy Blvd. Colorado Springs, CO 80920||Feb. 12||5:30 -7 p.m.|
|Natural Grocers Monument||1216 W. Baptist Rd. Monument, CO 80132||Feb. 13||5:30 – 7 p.m.|
|Natural Grocers South Nevada||1604 South Nevada Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80906||Feb. 15||5:30 – 7 p.m.|
Telephone Town Halls
|El Paso County*||Feb. 21||6-7 p.m.|
|Douglas County*||Feb. 22||6-7 p.m.|