The Colorado Department of Transportation gave its blessing Thursday to funding a critical $95 million transportation project that may prompt dancing in the streets from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek.
The project is the long-awaited Interstate 25-Cimarron Street interchange reconstruction, which has been on the state's radar since 1971.
"It's the beginning," said El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark. "It's been a long time coming. Persistence has paid off on behalf of the region."
The transportation commission also approved money for an I-25/Fillmore Street interchange and improvements to the interchanges at Judge Orr Road and U.S. 24 and Colorado 21 (Powers Boulevard) and Old Ranch Road.
The funding is 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. In all, it's a $1.5 billion boost to projects statewide.
RAMP "will allow us to make critical improvements to our state's transportation system," Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a news release.
The 44 improvements announced Thursday, he added, "will boost our economy through construction job growth."
For the first year, the Cimarron interchange will get $24 million, according to the list of winning projects.
Work will include:
- Improved and extended acceleration/deceleration lanes, widened shoulders and improved curbs
- New I-25 bridges
- Improved interstate and interchange operations
- Enhanced trail connections
- Aesthetic enhancements
Construction could start in 2015, Clark said.
U.S. 24 isn't just a key east-west thoroughfare in an area where there are few, according to CDOT. It's the only major route into the Rockies for 50 miles north and south of Colorado Springs - a key connector for tourism in Teller County.
"I think the impact will be beneficial to Teller County and to Woodland Park," said David Buttery, Woodland Park city manager. "I don't think it will be huge, but it will make it easier to exit off I-25 and to 24. It's not just the interchange, it's the improvements on 24 in the area that will make traffic flow a little bit easier."
It will also help truck drivers carrying goods through Ute Pass, Clark and Buttery said.
But those who celebrate the most may be commuters from Teller County who drive to Colorado Springs, Buttery said.
"Forty percent of the population in the city limits of Woodland Park works in Colorado Springs," he said.
"In Teller County, it's more than 50 percent. A huge number of our working population works in Colorado Springs, and it will make their commutes easier, and that makes happier people."