It might be a stretch to say the segment of Interstate 25 between Cimarron and Bijou streets is Dead Man's Curve, but many accidents there over the years prove it's a dangerous spot.
Motorists were provided with another annoying reminder Tuesday morning, when a flatbed truck overturned near the Cimarron Street exit, spilling a load of large PVC pipes, causing a multiple-vehicle pileup and blocking the highway in both directions for several hours. The wreck occurred at 8:20 a.m., resulting in chaos for morning commuters.
There were no serious injuries, but hundreds - if not thousands - of motorists were caught in the epic closure.
Colorado Department of Transportation officials say that's exactly the reason a $95 million interchange project is critical for the safety of motorists on I-25, even if the project won't be completed until the end of 2017.
"The interchange on I-25 will be moved 20 to 25 feet to the west, flattening the curve and improving the current alignment," said Colorado Springs Resident Engineer Dave Watt.
According to Watt, the curve on the road is too pronounced and vehicles traveling at higher rates of speed, especially those carrying heavy loads like the truck that overturned Tuesday, can lose control and roll over easily.
CDOT has been aware of the problem for years. On Feb. 2, 2012, CDOT painted solid striping on traffic lanes in hopes of reducing accidents. Just a week later, two accidents shut down the southbound lanes.
On Tuesday, CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson provided this crash history:
- In 2011 in the northbound lanes, there were eight property damage crashes and two injury crashes. In the southbound lanes, there were 14 property damage crashes and one injury crash.
- In 2012 in the northbound lanes, there were eight property damage crashes and two injury crashes. In the southbound lanes, there were 13 property damage crashes and one injury crash.
- This year from January to June, there were 17 property damage crashes and 18 injury crashes in the northbound lanes. In the southbound lanes, there were seven property damage crashes and no injury crashes.
The $95 million interchange project, approved by the transportation department, has been on the state's to-do list since 1971. Currently, $30 million has been appropriated to kick-start construction of the new Cimarron interchange, which is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015, Watt said.
"We're estimating to reach completion no later than the end of 2017, but we'll certainly work as fast and hard as we can to finish up even earlier than that," Watt said.
The remaining $65 million necessary for the project will be available under Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships, or RAMP, which allows CDOT to advance $300 million a year for five years to fund projects statewide.