— Prepare yourself for delays —
~ Rick Langenberg ~
Cripple Creek gamblers, area tourists and local residents will soon have to prepare themselves for lines of orange cones and definite highway delays along the main thoroughfare into the gaming community for an extended period this spring and summer.
Starting in late April or early May, local motorists, traveling to and from Cripple Creek, may want to consider some alternative routes at times during the week, or exercise a little patience.
That’s the bad news.
On the upside, the region will reap the benefits of a nearly $9 million highway improvement project on Hwy. 67 South between Divide and Cripple Creek, complete with a new asphalt overlay, striping, shouldering, guardrail and bridge improvements, erosion work and more. Similar improvements are slated along a section of Hwy. 67 North, between the Lucky Lady Drive area in Woodland Park and Westcreek. And best of all, the Colorado Department of Transportation funded project won’t cost the county or local governments any extra bucks.
“This is not being paid for by the county’s general fund,” said Teller County Commissioner Norm Steen, when briefing the public and the media on the $8.69 million work at their regular meeting last week. “This won’t cost us any more money. This is being funded by the (Colorado) taxpayers.”
Steen currently serves on a variety of key transportation groups at the state and regional level.
According to the commissioner, the project will take an estimated 140 work days to complete and won’t involve any road closures. Traffic will be diverted to one-lane along the construction zone.
Plus, in negotiations between state authorities and local officials, no work will occur during weekends and for key special events.
At a worst-case scenario, the commissioner estimates that motorists may have to endure a 15 to 20-minute wait. Still, he anticipates that motorists will use several alternative routes, such as Teller One and the Four Mile gravel road. “People can expect delays,” warned the commissioner
According to officials, the improvement work is needed as these key thoroughfares haven’t experienced needed improvements for a lengthy period and have suffered from neglect. This marks the first time such a comprehensive road improvement project has occurred, encompassing an extensive, large area of Hwy. 67.
A key element of the work will involve an inch and a half of milling and overlay work throughout the entire stretch of the project. Other details, according to a CDOT project analysis, call for striping, signing, road approach paving, shouldering, paving of pullouts, guardrail adjustments and hardware replacements, bridge deck repairs, bridge membrane installation, bridge rail replacement, temporary erosion control, rumple strips and delineator replacement and installation.
“This will result in a much better road,” said Steen. But he admitted, the work would impose some temporary inconveniences among the motoring public and for tourists and gamblers.
During an economic forum last week, Steve Kitzman, the marketing and special events director for the city of Cripple Creek, echoed similar sentiments
He cited the infrastructure work slated for Hwy. 67, and also for unrelated enhancements for Teller One, as great improvement projects that will “improve safety and ingress/egress.” But at the same time, he admitted that the work could pose some temporary pains.
Highway delays often bring back unfortunate memories from the Waldo Canyon fires and floods, when access between Colorado Springs and the gaming community was often halted on a daily basis. And several years ago, a big overhaul of Bennett Avenue generated many complaints from business operators.
But unlike parts of the Waldo Canyon-associated improvements, this work won’t involve any highway shutdown periods.
Outside Teller County
As far as other key highway improvements in the region, Steen cited a $300 to $500 million proposed project along I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock for additional lanes. This will greatly improve travel along the Front Range. In addition, the major I-25 Cimarron interchange project, estimated $113.1 million, is continuing at full-speed. A complex detour system has been set up for motorists during the project construction. But when completed, officials say this will accelerate the drive between Colorado Springs and Teller County
Currently, many leaders in the Pikes Peak region are lobbying for a larger share of the transportation pie and want more dialogue with the governor’s office..
In addition, Steen and the commissioners are headed to Washington D.C. this week to participate in the National Association of Counties conference. They will attend a variety of meetings with federal leaders and members of Congress. Some of the big issues hinge on transportation and public lands and various local funding goals.
One of the big promises of the Trump administration is to provide more dollars for improving infrastructure around the country. Colorado is often regarded as one of the prime areas for needed infrastructure work. If more dollars are distributed, Teller County hopes to receive a portion of these funds.