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New toll road a surprise to many

Falcon residents knew little about the proposed Springs Toll Road.”There’s no toll road coming near here,” said Gunny Edder, owner of the Remington Ranch on the north side of Woodmen Road. Edder’s large barn, Belgian draft horses and Marine Corps flag are familiar to those who drive by.”I don’t know squat about the Springs Toll Road,” said Mel Sharpe.Linda Shade asked, “Won’t it be years before it is built?””Isn’t that the thing way out east?” asked another.Here are the answers.The Springs Toll Road is not that “thing” (or other toll road) out east – this toll road is proposed to bypass the city and loop around the eastern side of Colorado Springs. Plans for the high-speed privately owned toll road are well under way.”All but a small portion of the land needed for the toll road is in the city, along present rights-of-way,” said Chuck Brown, former El Paso County Commissioner and spokesman for the Springs Toll Road Partnership. “The board of county commissioners is being asked to pass a resolution to accept the concept of our plan, and then we need to go to the state to seek final approval. After that, road construction should begin around 2007.”Brown made a presentation at a work session of the BOCC in May promoting the need for an expressway east of the city to relieve congestion on Interstate 25. Daniel Schnepf, CEO for Matrix, the engineering firm designing the toll road, supported the idea to the commissioners. He said the Springs Toll Road is the brain child of Lindsay Case, who, besides other projects, is known for overseeing the planning, financing, and construction of roads in Claremont Ranch on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs.Brown said the road will be constructed in six segments. Segment 1 is the proposed extension of Powers Boulevard, from I-25 to Highway 83, continuing south to Woodmen Road. The section of Powers already in existence will remain toll free, but newly constructed portions of the road will have tolls.Segment 2 covers Woodmen Road west of Falcon, from Powers Boulevard to the Remington Ranch, and then heading east to what was originally proposed to be the Banning Lewis Parkway.”I knew part of my land would be used for the Parkway, but I hadn’t heard it was now going to be a toll road,” Edder said. He spoke to Brown and realized it was the same road. Edder said he believes the toll road will turn and jog south, just east of the small white house on his ranch.”I run cattle on the Banning Lewis Ranch, but I’ve known for years that a road and houses will replace my herds,” he said. “You can’t stop it; it’s just a matter of time.”The long anticipated expansion of Woodmen Road will still take place in October 2006, when the Colorado Department of Transportation plans to build two additional lanes, Brown said. By 2010 (around then, Brown said), four toll lanes, which will be divided by a median, will parallel Woodmen Road. Local commuters will be able to use the toll-free lanes while those traveling north or south of the Springs have the option to use the toll road. Brown said the speed limit will be set at 75 mph.Segments 3 and 4 go through the Banning Lewis Ranch, east of Marksheffel Road and cross Highways 24 and 94. They then continue south to Powers Boulevard.Segment 5 is the portion of Powers already built that goes to Bradley Road, so no tolls will be charged on that part of the road. Segment 6 will be treated the same as Woodmen Road, with both local and toll express lanes. It will connect Drennan Road to I-25 south of the city.According to a written summary provided to the BOCC, funding for the toll road “will be financed through the sale of long-term bonds. Revenue from toll collections will be used to repay the principal and interest … no government will be responsible for any payments.”Private funding means taxpayers won’t have to approve bonds or an increase to the mill levy, an advantage not lost on the BOCC.And Springs Toll Road investors are hoping that Falcon resident Linda Bandy’s comment, “I don’t think a toll road is needed,” is misguided.

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