Last summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation whetted the whistles of northern Colorado Springs commuters by announcing preliminary plans to improve the congested corridor at Powers Boulevard and Research Parkway.
One small caveat, though: the unfunded project primarily hinged on the passage of one of two propositions —109 and 110 — on the November ballot. Both failed.
So while the CDOT project team continues to work on final designs for the $40 million endeavor that certainly would be a game changer, those who depend on Powers have no choice but to continue the grind.
And it’ll likely be until this time next year before more is learned about any future plans.
“It’s possible we could get money to southeast Colorado, and one of the projects we think could be funded is Research and Powers,” said Mark Andrew, CDOT’s Region 2 North Program engineer based in Colorado Springs. “But we won’t know that until November or December of next year.”
Senate Bill 267, passed in May 2017, was set to generate $1.9 billion for transportation by mortgaging state buildings. According to Andrew, those funds are received in phases, but the three-year, $350 million Gap Project, the long-anticipated task to widen the 18-mile stretch of Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock, took the majority of the first dispersal.
Senate Bill 1, signed by Gov. Hickenlooper last May, would supersede 267 if passed into law. Not quite a year from now, it’ll go before voters to approve $2.3 billion in transportation bonding.
Either of the ballot propositions would have fast-tracked Powers and Research. Proposition 109, formerly Initiative 167, aka “Fix Our Damn Roads” proposed using existing general funds to allow the state to bond $3.5 billion to pay for state highway projects. Proposition 110, first introduced as Initiative 153 or “Let’s Go Colorado” proposed a sales-tax hike by .62 percent to increase transportation assets.
“We’re in a holding pattern,” said Eric Richardson, a local government liaison based in Denver. “I don’t expect we’ll receive anything from (Senate Bill) 267 unless something happens in the legislature this spring. “For now, we just have wait on Senate Bill 1.”
The future Powers and Research project would dramatically improve traffic flow by replacing the only remaining at-grade intersection within some five miles. Previous improvements have taken place on Powers interchanges at Union, Briargate and most recently Old Ranch Road.
Along with a bridge that would eliminate the need for a traffic light for northbound and southbound Powers traffic at Research, the intersection would be designed with a diverging diamond interchange, similar to the one installed at Fillmore and I-25.
But for now, any thoughts of freeway-style traffic flow from Woodmen Road all the way north to State Highway 83 are just a mirage. At peaks times of the morning and evening commutes, drivers can easily spend 10 minutes, or more, waiting to slug it out at Research.
“A lot of people voted for one or the other with 109 and 110, and we think people want transportation improvements,” Andrew said. “It’s a matter of how we fund it. Voters rejected both, so we have to move forward. Right now, we don’t have money for the big projects, and there’s an impression that CDOT has plenty of money and that simply isn’t the case.”
For more information, visit codot.gov/projects/co-21-research-parkway-interchange-study.