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Drivers urged to "Mind the Gap" while funds sought to widen I-25

August 30, 2017 Updated: August 31, 2017 at 6:20 am
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Looking north towards Castle Rock Thursday, Deceber 22, 2016 as heavy traffic moves along I-25 which is two lanes in each direction. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

State transportation officials want drivers to "Mind the Gap" when traveling the roughly 17-mile two-lane span of Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock.

The Colorado Department of Transportation launched its latest safety campaign Wednesday, coining a slogan borrowed from the British subway system reminding users to watch their step when boarding trains.

While state and local officials try to find money to widen the span to three lanes in each direction, they want drivers to heed the dangers, said CDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison.

About 80 percent of all crashes in the Gap happen when a driver veers off the road into a guardrail, a motorist sideswipes another vehicle hidden by a blind spot, or a tailgating vehicle rear-ends another, Rollison said.

The Gap also is rife with wildlife, and Monument Hill quickly becomes treacherous when temperatures dip below freezing - both factors that increase accidents, she said.

Another trouble spot is south of Castle Rock, near Tomah Road, where passing vehicles have struck and killed two state troopers over the past three years as they were investigating other crashes.

The winding nature of the stretch, which rises and falls with more than 1,000 feet of elevation change between Monument Hill and Castle Rock, compounds the challenges. Unexpected traffic jams often force drivers to slam on their brakes - sometimes too late.

"It's one thing to say, 'Drive safe out there.' It's another thing to explain to people what the top causes of crashes are," said Rollison. "The hope is that will make a difference in getting them home safely."

Most collisions along the stretch occur during June, July and August, especially on Saturdays, she said. Gap drivers are most at risk from 7 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m..

More than 940 crashes occurred in the Gap in 2014 and 2015, CDOT reports.

Relief could be in sight, however. The Gap expansion could begin in 2019, if governments and other entities can scrape together $290 million to $570 million to complete the project, according to CDOT.

The Nov. 7 ballot in El Paso County likely will ask voters to approve at least $6 million in excess county revenue and $10 million in regional transportation tax revenue, all to widen the Gap.

The $10 million request, approved by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority on Aug. 9, would add the widening to projects the agency can fund using revenues from a 1 percent sales tax collected in the Pikes Peak region.

County commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to put the proposal for at least $6 million on the ballot

"The 'Mind the Gap' campaign is a great thing. But it's treating the symptom, and not the problem," said county Commissioner Mark Waller, who's part of a new Gap coalition of local, regional and state leaders working to broaden the span. "The only way that we're going to truly overcome these public safety issues is by widening I-25."

Visit www.codot.gov/travel/mind-the-gap for more facts, figures and safety tips.

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