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Rex and Meridian roads project update 

The New Falcon Herald published a report in the January issue on the Dec. 14, 2023, public meeting regarding the Rex and Meridian roads improvement project. The NFH later received a letter to the editor (published in the February issue) from a Meridian Ranch resident of almost 15 years, Gregory Sullivan, who expressed his concerns about the project’s potential shortcomings based on his personal perspective and background as a general contractor with a master’s degree in engineering.

Since then, the NFH has talked to Sullivan and the project manager from El Paso County department of public works, Omar Lopez, to gain clarity and updates about the project.

As originally reported, the construction team will follow its improvement plan for the intersection at Rex and Meridian roads as it was initially presented to the public on Dec. 14. This consists of installing a timed traffic signal, improving sight distance, widening Meridian Road to four lanes, adding turn lanes on Rex Road, adding an ADA-compliant pedestrian crosswalk on east Rex Road, improving roadside ditches and stormwater drainage and relocating utilities.  

The main concerns that Sullivan had with the project were the scope of the project, the impact to nearby residents and the lack of communication between the county and the public. 

In Sullivan’s opinion, the intersection would be much better suited for a simpler traffic signal at this time. 

“I have no problem with a signal. But whether you like a signal or not, we don’t need this crazy large intersection to go with it,” Sullivan said. “You could really put a simple light in there that works very similar to the Black Forest and Burgess roads interchange that would accomplish everything people want here.”

By shrinking the scale of the project, Sullivan estimated that the county could save half of the funds and reallocate the other half to another project to improve the area near the Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning just north of the Rex and Meridian roads intersection. 

According to a Feb. 20 press release from El Paso County, the project carries an estimated cost of $9.9 million. Of that, an estimated $8.8 million will be sourced from the county’s Road Impact Fee funds, which are gained from fees assessed to property owners in unincorporated El Paso County.

“It seems like an unnecessary expenditure,” Sullivan said. “Eliminate some of the costs of relocating utilities and widening the road, take that money and use it for something else that is needed and put in sensors for the light.”   

A smaller project would also be better for residents who live near the site, in Sullivan’s opinion. “With the wider lanes, they’re going to be taking traffic much closer to homes,” he said. He claimed that some areas of traffic will travel within 70 to 80 feet from home windows. 

When Sullivan presented his ideas to the professionals involved in the project, he described their response as “polite, but nonnegotiable.” 

Sullivan said (referring to the county engineer in a written summary to the NFH), “He unnecessarily expanded the project without sufficient communication with local residents. As a result, instead of choosing an effective, low impact solution, he chose to build an interstate highway.” 

Lopez said the project has been on the county website for multiple years, but the first time it was officially presented for public engagement was at the Dec. 14, 2023, public meeting; after all design details had already been solidified and just around two months before the project kicked off. 

 “There are cases where a project is presented and public input is asked for at a much earlier stage in the project, but that wasn’t the case for this one,” Lopez said. He is uncertain about what qualifies a project to be presented earlier for public feedback and why that wasn’t the case for this project.  

Regardless, Lopez said that public feedback was considered when it came time to make design decisions, such as deciding between installing a traffic signal or a roundabout (two of the improvement configurations recommended in a traffic study by AECOM). While there was no formal collection of public feedback for this specific intersection, public feedback from similar past projects in the county was taken into consideration. 

Several other factors were considered, too. Lopez said, “There are many things that go into making the decision: engineering judgment, availability of funding, immediate need for improvements, current developments, future developments.”   

At this time, there are no plans to alter the project design, and the county is moving forward on construction with Elite Surface Infrastructure out of Englewood as the contractor on the job. 

The team broke ground on the project during the week of Feb. 19 and expects to complete it by early 2025. 

Residents can stay informed about traffic patterns, detours, closures and more through the email updates from the county.

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