Most Colorado Springs drivers would agree: The most frustrating, anxiety-inducing section of any commute along the Interstate 25 corridor is the 18-mile "gap" between Monument and Castle Rock, where a quick 30-minute trip to the outlet mall can turn into a two-hour ordeal.
After voters approved two ballot measures that allotted money to widen that notorious portion of the highway, and the Colorado Department of Transportation gave the final go-ahead in June, construction is almost ready to begin to add new lanes in each direction.
In spite of protests
from county commissioners and constituents, CDOT has decided those lanes will be toll lanes. (That's in part because a $65-million federal grant to help with construction stipulates that's necessary.) However, CDOT proclaims in an Aug. 15 statement that those tolls will be the lowest in the state — $0.15 per mile, or around $2.25 for a total trip.
CDOT's High Performance Transportation Enterprise, a government-owned business, conducted a traffic and revenue study that determined this fee "would likely provide for a reliable travel option while improving travel times across the general purpose lanes." It's also apparently based on a survey of motorists who indicated how much they'd be willing to pay.
The money will pay for "tolling equipment and installation, tolling operations and maintenance of the Express Lanes in the I-25 South Gap corridor to include snow plowing, and debris removal and pavement repairs."
Motorcycles and vehicles carrying three or more people will be able to use the lanes for free.
Gear up for a long ride: The new Express Lanes won't be open until 2022, CDOT says, though that's still the "fastest delivery of a project this size in CDOT history." Construction on the northern section of the gap, near Castle Rock, is set to begin in early September.
Both lanes will usually remain open in the daytime during construction, CDOT says, but drivers on the highway at night can expect lane and ramp closures. Slower speed limits, large trucks, and narrower lanes could also make a frustrating commute more frustrating. (But hey, it's all about delayed gratification!)
CDOT is hosting two town halls where residents can learn about the upcoming years of construction, and about the project in general. Here are the times and dates from an Aug. 14 CDOT statement:
Monday, Aug. 20: El Paso County
Monument Academy, 1150 Village Ridge Point in Monument
From I-25, use Exit 161 – Highway 105. Drive east on Highway 105 for 1 mile. Monument Academy will be located on the left after Integrity Bank. Turn left at Gold Canyon Road into the parking lot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Limited parking at school use the church parking lot. Enter through the front of the school through the Gym doors.
Wednesday, Aug. 22: Douglas County
Douglas County Fairgrounds, Kirk Hall, 500 Fairgrounds Road in Castle Rock
From I-25, take the Plum Creek Parkway (Exit 181) east. After about 1 mile, turn left on Fairgrounds Road.
For ADA accommodations, please call the project hotline – 720-745-5434 – 48 hours ahead of the meeting.
Both opportunities are open-house style events — there will not be a formal presentation. Attendees can visit any time between 5 and 7 p.m. to talk one-on-one with project experts. There will be multiple display boards explaining the project and plenty of staff available to answer questions.
Telephone Town Hall Sept. 6
For those who cannot attend either event in person, CDOT will also host a Telephone Town Hall from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6. The automated system will call some area stakeholders. Those who don’t receive a call and want to participate can call 1-877-229-8493 and enter passcode 117409.