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As Falcon grows … traffic woes

Several long-range road projects are in the works to alleviate traffic woes on the eastern plains; however, the funding for those projects dictates their timeliness. Meanwhile, the cars are piling up.El Paso County road expansion projects are determined by the amount of traffic – known as traffic counts – calculated at a given area on the roads. The last traffic count the county completed was in 2005, said Jolene Leno, engineering technician for the El Paso County Department of Transportation. The new average daily traffic estimates are due mid-November.”I expect the upcoming counts to definitely be higher,” Leno said.El Paso County currently has 390 traffic count locations. Half the locations are studied in the spring and half in the fall. Areas with a high flow of traffic are reviewed twice a year, depending on the cost. Traffic counts are done when funding is available to hire consulting companies to complete the studies.The traffic is calculated by counting machines. Black strips are placed on the roads and the cars are counted when they run over the strips; the count is averaged over two days.Woodmen Road a priorityFalcon residents haven’t needed a counting machine to recognize the traffic woes on Woodmen Road.Traffic (on Woodmen Road) has exceeded the capacity of a two-lane road, said John McCarty, director of the El Paso County Department of Transportation. The expansion to four lanes is a high priority. “The entire length of the project is critical,” McCarty said. “All the funding is ready to go.”Two projects have been completed along Woodmen Road and one is under way.Two lanes from Marksheffel Road to Meridian Road were completed, as well as improvements, such as widening, at the intersection of Woodmen and Black Forest roads.Improvements at the Woodmen and Powers roads intersection has been bid out to the Colorado Department of Transportation, McCarty said.Although the money has been earmarked for widening Woodmen Road to four lanes and the environmental assessment has been approved and property acquisitions completed, there are a few more hoops the county has to jump through. Advertising for bids is one of them. As the bids come in, the county will evaluate each one and then hire a contractor. The process will take about three months, McCarty said.Then there’s the intersection at Woodmen Road and Highway 24. Improvements there will begin late summer 2008, he said. Because no additional drainage structures are needed, only gutter and paving improvements, McCarty said the intersection will be one of the first in the Woodmen Road expansion project.McCarty said the entire Woodmen Road project will take 18 to 24 months because of the “sheer size and length.” During construction, Woodmen Road will remain open for travel.Highway 24 in reviewTraffic along U.S. Highway 24 is evaluated by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The CDOT works closely with the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs. “We have a good partnership,” said Mark Andrew, CDOT resident engineer.Andrew said the CDOT Traffic Unit in Pueblo recently monitored the intersections on Highway 24. None of the intersections rated in the top 50 for severity, he said. “Our planning study will begin this fall to define priority locations for funding on U.S. 24 east, as it becomes available.” He said the study also will identify the need for future improvements.The study includes a complete accident investigation for the entire Highway 24 corridor, along with updated accident figures. Andrew said the study should be completed by the end of next summer, with recommendations for safety improvements.Currently, the CDOT monitors accidents along the highway. “We categorize accidents into injury, property damage and fatalities,” Andrew said. “The overall accident picture is less than what we would expect for a two-lane, high-speed highway.”When we see a larger density of accidents, we determine if there is a contributing factor. Right now we aren’t seeing any single contributing factor, other than high volume on a two-lane, rural and urban highway that needs to be widened.”There is a push to try to put more money into safety and widening projects along Highway 24, he said. Recent funding will enable the CDOT to begin preliminary design on possible widening, including a study to determine environmental impacts and right-of-way needs.If the funding is secured for the widening project, construction would not begin for another two to three years after the planning study is completed, Andrew said. And the funding is years from reality. “Unfortunately, we don’t anticipate any significant funding until the year 2020, based on PPACG’s 2030 long-range plan,” he said.Regardless of when the money will be available, the PPACG long-range plan allows $20.5 million for widening Highway 24 to a four-lane divided highway from Dodge and Garrett to Judge Orr roads and reconstructing the Peterson Road and Highway 24 interchange.”The new 2035 plan is due out in the next few months, which could increase, reduce and/or accelerate funding,” Andrew said.”Most of the funding for U.S. 24 has been through our region priority program funds, safety funds or bridge funds.”The high costs associated with widening projects are related to right-of-way costs, utilities, design and construction.Widening the highway from Garrett to Judge Orr roads to four lanes would cost about $23.2 million, and widening Judge Orr Road to Peyton to four lanes is estimated at $59 million, Andrew said.Several projects – widening, bridge work, safety improvements – have been completed along Highway 24. Construction on a bridge replacement between Woodmen and Judge Orr roads is scheduled to begin in July 2008, if the bridge funding is available, he said.Andrew said he is passionate about Highway 24, and all the agencies involved in improving El Paso County’s roads are “willing to make it happen.”Average daily traffic along Woodmen Road, from Highway 24 to Black Forest Road

Road CountedCrossroad1998200020032005
North of Hwy. 24Woodmen Road**11,63212,113
Woodmen Roadeast of Meridian Road*11,19613,04814,508
Woodmen Roadwest of Meridian Road7,15410,83315,06617,318
Woodmen RoadMohawk Road East**12,91315,121
Woodmen Roadeast of Marksheffel Road9,61211,38715,07619,073
Woodmen Roadwest of Marksheffel Road*13,25114,16918,481
Woodmen RoadBlack Forest Road east11,479*17,92818,963
This information was provided by the El Paso County Department of Transportation.* indicates that numbers were not available for that particular year in the location mentioned.

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