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County moves ahead with Falcon Park and Ride

The El Paso County Department of Transportation held an open house Jan. 15 for the Falcon Park and Ride, designated for the southwest corner of Old Meridian Road and Swingline Road.Banning Lewis Ranch donated the lot, and a federal grant and the Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority will fund the project, said Jennifer Irvine, who works for the El Paso County DOT.The open house featured several designs for the park and ride, including the preferred design, which includes 226 parking spaces, a bus turnaround, and a roundabout circle at the intersection of Old Meridian Road and Swingline Road.Irvine said they held the open house to get feedback from the community on the preferred design. She said the response has been positive. The next step is to move the project through the approval process, which is likely to take several months, Irvine said.The site is actually located in Colorado Springs, so work on the project will require coordination with the city. Construction could start this year, she said.Andre Brackin, transportation department engineer, said the project is not dependent on future plans for extending Meridian Road, which currently dead ends at Rolling Thunder Way, across Highway 24.”The improvement on that intersection is going to warrant a signal; you’re looking at probably $1.3 million dollars in construction,” Brackin said. “Nobody has the money for that right now. We’re working with the Falcon Highlands District to try to figure out a way to get it done.”Instead, the park and ride can be completed as a stand-alone project, followed by the construction of Meridian Road south of Highway 24 to the park and ride lot. The third phase of the project connects Meridian Road with the current Old Meridian Road and adds a cul-de-sac so that buses servicing the park and ride can turn around.In the project’s fourth phase, Meridian Road becomes a four-lane road that, by 2030, will extend as a four-lane road to Squirrel Creek Road, east of Fountain; according to the county’s 2030 Major Transportation Corridors Plan map.Infrastructure stimulus money coming to FalconBrackin said a shovel-ready infrastructure improvement could be in Falcon’s future.”It’s the bridge on Highway 24 between Blue Gill Road and Judge Orr Road. It’s a concrete box that’s going to be shifted, so it will basically be a new structure,” Brackin said, adding that the project will also involve some downstream channel improvements.”The design is done, and we’re very close to having all the environmental issues cleared. Because it’s ready to go, it goes to the top of the list. The Colorado Department of Transportation will do all the work themselves. They’ll contract out the whole project and use that stimulus package money to get it done, saving the county about $3 million.”Brackin said the stimulus money can’t be used for projects already funded and can only be used for projects that are shovel-ready or nearly shovel-ready.”We’re looking at projects that are in the hopper right behind those that are already funded but that can be ready to go in 180 days. That’s real tough to do,” he said.”The state meets with the all the local metropolitan planning organizations, like the Pikes Peak Area Community Council of Governments, which maintains a list of projects. They’ve prioritized about $69 million in projects, including the Pueblo COG and extending east to the state line.”The goal from the state is ‘let’s not let any other state get this money.’ So, that’s the challenge right now, matching the money to the projects. It’s good to know that one of our projects is the No. 2 ranked in this region.”Brackin said he expects the downturn to last a while.”A lot of people woke up and realized there was a lot of trading going on with nothing to back it up. But, it will come back,” he said, adding that it could take 10 years to get back to a thriving economy.

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