Cries for urgency to expand Interstate 25 between Castle Rock and Monument seem to have been heard. The Colorado Department of Transportation hosted a press conference Jan. 6, where it announced construction on an additional lane in each direction of that 17-mile corridor could begin as soon as summer 2019 and could perhaps be completed by 2021.
The announcement came during a press conference at the Douglas County Administration Building in Castle Rock, where Shailen Bhatt, CDOT executive director, said the environmental and planning process for improvements on the interstate between C470 to Colorado Springs, to include the two-lane “gap,” will be “greatly accelerated.” The project could cost as much as a half-billion dollars and still comes with two major caveats: a clean environmental assessment and funding.
“You need two things to widen a highways,” Bhatt said. “You need money … and you need [a National Environmental Policy Act] decision.”
According to Bhatt, CDOT was able to accelerate the initial stages of the environmental planning due to financing for the C-470 Express Lanes project. The department used funds that were otherwise allocated to serve as a “backstop” for loans that will finance the project. Less money was necessary than first thought, allowing CDOT to reroute $15 million for the environmental and pre-construction work. Those funds, along with $6 million already set aside for a Programmatic & Environmental Linkages study, will mean the project will be shovel-ready if money is available in 2019.
Mayor John Suthers, who spoke at the conference, said he is optimistic about both the environmental study and funding.
“I don’t think the environmental study will be a huge obstacle,” the mayor said. “But there was a lot of money spent to engineer around the [Preble’s Meadow mouse] in Monument, so you never can tell, but I think the legislative funding is the big obstacle.”
Suthers did say he is “very pleased by the amount of momentum.
“I think this is a testament to public sentiment. When people started talking about the prospect of this taking 10 years, it wasn’t just leaders stepping up and saying ‘That’s ridiculous.’ It was the public saying ‘That’s ridiculous.’”
Regarding funding, Suthers said the local legislative and Northern Colorado delegations are “feeling a lot of pressure.
“I just wish they would get over some of the philosophical issues I don’t quite understand,” he said. “I don’t see the hospital provider fee question as an in-around TABOR. It should have been an enterprise in the first place, and that is a way to produce money without a tax increase.”
Additionally, Suthers said if President-elect Donald Trump maintains his course on infrastructure improvements as president, then transportation projects like the one planned for I-25 are likely to receive more federal attention.
State Representative Terri Carver, who has made transportation one of her cornerstone issues, provided the following statement:
“I had advocated to CDOT that the full environmental review for the I-25 widening project start immediately. We should not waste time and money to first do the PEL study, then still have to do the required environmental study before we can widen I-25. Today’s CDOT announcement is an important step to getting this vital road construction project done as soon as possible! I will continue to fight for this I-25 widening project as a priority for CDOT and for state transportation funding.”
Read more in the Jan. 13 edition of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.
Read more about the accelerated project in the Jan. 13 edition of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.