Construction crews will begin removing vegetation and invasive tree species (clearing and grubbing) this week as part of the preliminary work on the Interstate-25/Cimarron interchange reconstruction project, according to a Colorado Department of Transportation news release. This operation will take place in the southwest quadrant of the interchange.

The release stated clearing and grubbing facilitates earthwork, utility relocations and bridge work along the west side of I-25 and results will be noticeable.

“We certainly recognize the upcoming changes in the area’s landscape,” said CDOT Project Director Dave Watt in the release. “But the majority of trees being removed are invasive species and do not add to the creek experience. We’re asking for the public’s patience, as this clearing work is a first step to what ultimately will be a tremendous enhancement to the surrounding area and the interchange operations.

“As the interchange is reconstructed and the new native species plantings mature, the result will be a ‘gateway exit’ into downtown Colorado Springs and the mountain communities to the west.”

A field survey found 80 percent of the trees slated for removal are invasive species, harming Fountain Creek and Monument Creek fish habitat, according to the release.

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Community input led the project team to restore Fountain Creek in such a way as to treat the creek as an amenity, enable a closer trail and allow access to waterways. Native species will be replanted as part of the creek restoration efforts.

“Fountain Creek restoration along Gold Hill Mesa is the example the community stakeholders wanted to achieve. You can now see the native vegetation coming back in that area and filling in,” Watt said in the release.

Also, the project will extend the Midland Trail west along Fountain Creek through Eighth Street for a connection to the future Midland Greenway Trail. The clearing and grubbing work will enable the contractor to replace the Cimarron Street Bridge over Upper Fountain Creek, west of I-25.

The I-25/Cimarron Street interchange design-build project is the second largest highway construction project in the Pikes Peak region since the reconstruction of I-25, known as COSMIX (Colorado Springs Metropolitan Expansion) was completed in 2008, according to CDOT. More than 150,000 vehicles travel through the interchange daily, making it one of the region’s busiest.

Planned upgrades include rebuilding the interchange between Colorado Avenue on the north and South Nevada Avenue to the south. The US 24 project boundaries are between Eighth Street on the west and the Union Pacific-BNSF railroads joint line/Cimarron Street bridge to the east, according to CDOT.