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The road less traveled 

A couple of years ago, the Colorado Springs City Council tried to shove an urban overpass at Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard down our throats.

The overpass would have been paid for by the very businesses the City wanted to tax out of existence to pay for it. That plan was withdrawn when it became apparent the City had fudged the traffic figures and used smoke and mirrors in its effort to create a tax district to pay for this so-called "improvement."

At about the same time, a plan by the City for a limited access, high-speed Woodmen Road Expressway surfaced. The City denied it really intended to build such a road. But we soon learned that Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace and then-City Manager Jim Mullen had been working hard to get support for a beltway using Interstate 25 on the west; Highway 24/MLK Bypass on the south; Powers Boulevard on the east; and Woodmen Road on the north. By definition, a beltway, to anyone familiar with the concept, means a high-speed, limited access roadway loop.

Because of all the controversy, the City spent $500,000 of our tax money on the recently completed East-West Mobility Study. Many of us met almost twice monthly for some 16 months trying to come up with recommendations to ease the city's traffic woes.

In the end, the study rejected intra-city expressway type roads as a solution to our traffic problems. Rather, a roadway plan involving multiple crosstown routes was recommended.

As to Woodmen Road, we recommended keeping any improvements within the current 120-foot right of way. We agreed that Woodmen should be widened to six lanes and that widening the road to eight lanes between I-25 and Academy Boulevard should be considered only after other specified improvements in this area of town were completed.

When the initial East-West Mobility Study results were presented to Council in the spring, the City staff urged Council to approve a 160-foot roadway for Woodmen Road. Further, City staff recommended building eight lanes between I-25 and Academy without regard to the other improvements specified in the $500,000 East-West Study. And, City staff again recommended an urban interchange be built at Woodmen and Academy.

If you take away some of the very wide shoulder areas on Research Parkway, you can get an idea of what a 120-foot wide Woodmen Road might be like (a little more width at major cross streets for right turn lanes might be necessary and unobjectionable).

That is plenty of room for six traffic lanes, adequate turn lanes, and a nice median; and for sidewalks and sound walls on the sides of the roadway.

When Woodmen is widened to six through lanes at the Woodmen and Academy Boulevard intersection, the East-West traffic flow there will increase by 50 percent. That should be sufficient as the City's projected traffic figures have always been hyped and have consistently failed to reflect other improvements to the city's roadway system.

Meanwhile, the county wants a 210-foot right of way for Woodmen Road from Powers Boulevard east to Highway 24.

Let's say we give the City the 160-foot right-of-way west of Powers and the overpasses the staff wants (they, in fact, want more overpasses than the one at Academy). Then it would only be a short leap to the high-speed, limited access Woodmen Road Expressway we saw in the plan two years ago.

All of this simply can't be coincidence.

Our Council and the City staff have always believed and continue to believe they can do anything to Woodmen Road that they want with impunity, because that will give the appearance of doing something, even if it doesn't actually accomplish anything.

Notably, at the meeting on Tuesday, July 23, the City Council plans to consider an East-West mobility package for the city.

Unless citizens interested in real traffic flow improvement show up or otherwise express their concerns, we are going to get an expensive, unnecessary and wholly useless expressway on Woodmen Road, while other projects that might improve traffic conditions continue to be ignored.

Frank Dodge is a Colorado Springs homeowner, business owner and registered voter who served on the citizens' resource group for the recently completed East-West Mobility Study designed to map out solutions to the city's transportation woes. The July 23 meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Council's Chambers, in City Hall downtown at the corner of Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street.

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