The new falcon herald logo.
Feature Articles

Road Worries

When Jim Ozburn’s father built a small campground in Falcon in 1957, Highway 24 was a quiet, two-lane country road. Two years later, he added a small store, and today both businesses still exist, owned and operated by Ozburn and his wife, Dee. But a lot has changed in 47 years.The state classified Highway 24 as a major highway thoroughfare in the early part of the 20th century, but as growth in the eastern plains exploded in the past few years, it became clear to the county and the state that the road needed improvements. The first concern was safety.The people on the eastern plains communities, such as Falcon, Peyton and Calhan, use Highway 24 as a commuter route into Colorado Springs. The highway serves the two air bases, Peterson and Schriever, as well. As anyone who travels on the highway regularly knows, traffic has increased noticeably in the last few years.The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) now designates the highway as an expressway. “We need to get people through as safely and as quickly as possible,” said Darrell Taylor, CDOT’s corridor manager for the Highway 24 improvements. “The only way to do that is to limit access.” State law requires that traffic lights on an expressway are spaced at least one mile apart.It’s that talk of limiting access that worries the long-standing business owners along Highway 24. “I was first made aware of the plan to make Highway 24 four lanes around 1999 or 2000,” said Ozburn. “At the time, I didn’t quite understand the impact.” But since that time, all Ozburn has heard is news that he thinks will be bad for his business.At least four groups are involved in the decisions that affect Highway 24: CDOT, El Paso County, the city of Colorado Springs and the various developers who are proposing (or in the process of building) development along the corridor. The development of Falcon Highlands will have a major impact on businesses near the intersection of 24 and Meridian Road. Currently, none of the various plans that have been discussed in the numerous meetings have been finalized. However, one thing is certain: There will be big changes to the various intersections on Highway 24, and Ozburn is concerned that his business will be cut off from customers.One of the main things that has to change is the offset intersections coming into Highway 24. These intersections are already dangerous and will become more so as traffic increases and Highway 24 is widened. In 2000 and 2001, CDOT completed several safety improvements, including intersection improvements at Falcon Highway and Meridian Road. As Highway 24 regular travelers know, CDOT is currently working on widening the highway from Constitution Avenue to Garrett Road. The proposed widening project east of Garrett Road will most likely not begin until 2008 at the earliest. “We can’t do another project until we do an environmental assessment (EA),” Taylor said. “We can’t do an EA until we have a budget, and we can’t do either of those until we have money.”But when that project is undertaken, the portion of the highway that runs by Ozburn’s store will be two lanes in each direction, separated by a median, with no access to his business for traffic headed east.Over the years, Ozburn has heard a number of proposals designed to give him “reasonable access” to Highway 24. These include right-in, right-out-only access; traffic circles; and access via a frontage road (the most recent proposal). All these alternatives concern him. “If half my business comes from the other side of the road, they’ve cut my business in half,” he said. He doesn’t worry about his campground business: the campground itself is a destination. But the convenience store is an “impulse business.” “The number one reason people go to a convenience store is convenience,” Ozburn said, He is concerned that if customers have to drive past his store, turn left on the future Dublin Road and then double back on a frontage road to get to his store, it won’t be very convenient anymore.The most recent CDOT access control plan (see drawing) gives the Falcon Food Store right-in right-out-only access going east and gives Richardson’s Western Supply access via a frontage road. From the drawing, it appears that once the frontage road is built from the future Dublin Road (across the highway from Falcon Highway), Ozburn’s right-in, right-out-only access will be closed.But there are the various access roads that will be built by Realty Development Services, one of the developers of Falcon Highlands. The eastern property line of the Banning-Lewis Ranch property is adjacent to the Falcon Highlands development, and representatives of the Banning-Lewis Ranch Company have objected to Falcon Highland’s plans to direct primary traffic into the Banning-Lewis development by way of the proposed Dublin Road extension. It’s difficult to say what the configuration of the roads will be in the final plan.CDOT’s major concern is providing safe and organized access. “Highway 24 is an expressway, and we need to get people through as safely and quickly as possible, and the only way to do that is to limit access,” Taylor said. “The opposite end of that is Academy Boulevard. It’s classified as an expressway, but at the time it was built, the access code had not been formalized, so everybody got access. Actually, the access code is in response to things like Academy Boulevard.”Those words are no comfort to Jim Ozburn, who fears that the business his father built on a modest two-lane road in 1945 will be swept away by “progress.” A few weeks ago, the Ozburns mailed 2,300 Thanksgiving thank-you cards to their regular customers. “And that’s just the customers we know by name,” said Ozburn. “You can’t get that at Safeway.”The number one reason people go to a convenience store is convenience. If customers have to drive past the store, turn left on the future Dublin Road and then double back on a frontage road to get to the store, it won’t be very convenient anymore. – Jim Ozburn, owner Falcon Food Store

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers