CASTLE ROCK - A shift in state transportation money will cut in half the time to widen Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock.

Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt announced Friday morning an additional $15 million for the widening project that will be used to speed up studies that have to be finished before construction can begin.

The funding will allow construction to start in summer 2019 with the project expected to be completed sometime in 2021, Bhatt said at a gathering of state, local and federal officials at the Douglas County administration building. Initially CDOT said widening corridor from two to three lanes in each direction would take more than a decade.

The $15 million, which was initially earmarked for the C-470 Express Lane project, will allow CDOT to concurrently conduct the environment analysis and a second study required by National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) along the almost 20-mile stretch of highway. The NEPA study was initially scheduled to begin in 2018 after the first analysis was complete.

The total interstate project is expected to cost between $400 million and $500 million. Bhatt said the plan is to have money sources solidified in 2017.

"We currently don't have (that money) in our budget," he said. "We are taking steps to fix this... We have pulled every rabbit out of our hat in this era of limited funding."

El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark said the restructuring of the I-25 plan was the result of leaders like fellow Commissioner Mark Waller and state Rep. Paul Lundeen's "squeaky wheel" approach in prodding Gov. John Hickenlooper's office to find money and speed up widening the corridor.

Lundeen on Friday called the announcement a "big win." He echoed a mantra that state leaders need to have "laser focus" on fundamental projects like roads and bridges.

Clark, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Douglas County Commissioner Roger Partridge each spoke at Friday's gathering stressing the need to look toward all potential sources of transportation funding, including taking advantage of federal partnerships.

Suthers reminded all that I-25 had already been widened from Colorado Springs to Monument.

"We just moved the bottleneck up the road," Suthers said.

He agreed with the other speakers, saying that finishing the job from Monument to Castle Rock is important for safety and commerce. Suthers said the growth in northern Colorado Springs includes many people who work in Denver.

Clark added that stretch of I-25 is a "major corridor for defense access."

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