The issue: Traffic congestion on Interstate 25 damages commerce and county roads.
What we think: Approving question 1A and 5B are steps toward finding money to expand Interstate 25.
Commuters to Denver are spending more time fuming in traffic jams than conducting business between Denver and Colorado Springs. Backups on Interstate 25 — which narrows to two lanes north of Monument and doesn’t open up to three lanes again until south of Castle Rock — are causing damage to the state’s tourism, its business prospects and its economic development.
El Paso County roads are taking more than their fair share of the traffic — and it’s not getting any better.
But there’s some positive news surrounding the I-25 traffic wars. The state announced last week it will spend about $250 million for the initial expansion work with the goal of starting construction in 2019 — once the environmental study and all preconstruction work is finished. Colorado Department of Transportation officials say that they recognized they couldn’t wait any longer to solve congestion on one of the state’s major interstates.
Now it’s time for local residents to do our part to improve traffic and ease congestion from the influx of new residents in Colorado. Thanks to a booming economy, the El Paso County government has funds it can dedicate to the purpose — maybe.
It all depends on voters.
The county is asking residents to approve keeping $14.6 million in excess tax revenue to match state and federal funds for the project. The county would also spend some of the money on disaster recovery, as well as parks, trails and open space, according to ballot proposal 1A. Absent voter approval on Nov. 7, El Paso County will return the money to taxpayers — about $40 for those owning homes valuated at $250,000. The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority is also asking to retain about $10 million in excess revenue — and is asking voters to approve adding the I-25 gap to their project priority list. Because the money comes from excess revenue, it won’t affect funding of the other projects on PPRTA’s list. Together, these funds can match federal and state money to fix the gap.
There’s little El Paso County residents can do to persuade Douglas County taxpayers to help fund their part of the expansion. After all, only about a mile of the planned expansion falls in El Paso County. But ending congestion between the state’s two biggest cities could pave the way for new opportunities for business expansion, collaboration and partnerships with the state’s capital city.
Easing the stop-and-go traffic on I-25 removes the additional traffic burden on county roads. When traffic slows on the highway, hundreds of drivers inevitably make their way to Colorado Springs using county roads from Larkspur in Douglas County into Palmer Lake and through Monument. All those cars, trucks, delivery vans and tractor-trailers are taking a tremendous toll on roads that weren’t built to carry thousands of cars a week. And even then, traffic backs up on Highway 105 in northern El Paso County, on Highway 83 on the east side of I-25, on County Line Road in Palmer Lake and throughout Monument.
Failing to widen I-25 now means taxpayers will be forced to pony up the money to fix the side roads and frontage roads throughout northern El Paso County.
It’s a long-overdue, long-awaited fix. And now that the state’s on board, it’s time for local businesses and voters to approve our share of the money. Measure 1A doesn’t demand additional tax money; it’s using money already collected for something that will benefit the region as a whole.
Vote yes on 1A and on 5B.