After 30 months of work, the Interstate 25/Cimarron interchange project is nearly complete — and is finishing on time and on budget.
The $115 million redesign involves the interstate between Colorado Avenue on the north and South Nevada Avenue to the south, 8th Street on the west and the Cimarron Street bridge over Fountain Creek on the east. New I-25 entrance and exit ramps were also designed, with the entire construction project aiming to improve citizen safety and ease traffic congestion.
“From a safety standpoint, the improvement will result in fewer accidents due to improved highway alignment, better functioning acceleration/deceleration lanes and increased vehicle storage,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in an email. “We have also improved exit/entrance ramps and increased shoulder widths. The new bridge structure is wider and the new interchange has better sight distances than the previous one.”
Suthers will be part of Thursday’s 1 p.m. symbolic unveiling of the new interchange, which will include a formal ribbon-cutting for the new Midland Trail.
This marks the completion of the second largest transportation project in Colorado Springs history, after COSMIX, the Colorado Springs Metro Interstate Expansion.
Dave Watt of the Colorado Department of Transportation, who is resident engineer for the I-25/Cimarron Interchange Design-Build project, said he thinks the interchange will “be a lot safer.”
“We have flattened out the curve that was built in 1959, smoothed out the Motor City curve as people like to call it,” Watt said. “We’ve updated the interchange configuration from the cloverleaf to a single-point urban interchange that is very similar to Garden of the Gods [interchange]. The short merges are gone. It’s built to today’s standards for safety and mobility.”
Suthers said the improvements should benefit motorists like him.
“We expect the traffic backup to improve drastically due to the additional connection between U.S. 24 and 8th Street,” he said. “Anyone who has driven that route at rush hour — as I do — understands the importance of addressing that. The additional connection is expected to provide a 40 percent overall reduction in traffic at that intersection.”
The project broke ground in April 2015 and will be finished by Dec. 1, Watt said. Construction crews will finish landscaping and punch-list items over the next several weeks. Intermittent lane restrictions will continue until the project is complete.
“This project is vital to our local economy, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a high level of collaboration between many partners,” Suthers said. “The Pikes Peak Area Council of Government agencies, together with CDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the Transportation Commission and the city and county worked hand-in-hand to make this gateway a reality, and the gateway is better for it. Not only were these partnerships vital in terms of funding, but the collaboration resulted in a safer, more attractive entryway to our city for visitors in vehicles, on foot or on bikes.
“Further, given the bridge structure and the proximity to [Fountain Creek], there was careful planning in cooperation with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, City Parks & Cultural Services and the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Watt said it was necessary to “shift” part of Fountain Creek while some work was done and that the creek has been “moved back to the middle.”
“We’ve been able to re-vegetate that area and it will look good,” Watt said.
He said the interchange will also be heavily landscaped.
As for funding, Watt said $7 million of the $115 million cost came from the city of Colorado Springs, with $1 million coming from El Paso County and the rest in “different colors of federal and state dollars.”
Suthers said the new interchange will provide a much-improved visual for motorists coming into Colorado Springs.
“As Olympic City USA, and one of the most scenic large cities in the nation, Colorado Springs deserves a gateway befitting of its assets and reputation,” Suthers said. “Tourism is essential to our local economy, and when our hundreds of thousands of visitors come to our city, they should be met with a safe, aesthetically-pleasing arrival. This new interchange accomplishes that goal not only for us, but for our neighbors to the west.”