The long-awaited expansion project of Interstate 25 between Castle Rock and Monument, an area commonly called “the Gap,” is nearly here. Construction to widen the stretch of I-25 from two lanes …
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The long-awaited expansion project of Interstate 25 between Castle Rock and Monument, an area commonly called “the Gap,” is nearly here.
Construction to widen the stretch of I-25 from two lanes in each direction to three, with the new lane being tolled, begins Sept. 4.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has held community meetings to brief the public on what to expect during construction, but it left some Douglas County residents worried about ripple effects on their neighborhood.
CDOT hopes widening the Gap will eliminate notorious congestion in the area and increase public safety. The project also includes adding wildlife crossings and addressing aging bridges, among other fixes, throughout the years-long project.
What to expect
In total there are three multi-phase “packages” of construction. Package one doesn't wrap up until 2020 but begins this September. It spans five miles from Plum Creek Parkway in Castle Rock to Sky View Lane, about halfway between Tomah Road and Larkspur.
Here's the plan to manage traffic while construction is underway:
• Two lanes will remain open throughout the day going in each direction.
• Speed limits will be reduced on I-25 from 75 mph to 65 mph in construction zones.
• Any necessary lane and ramp closures will happen after peak hours, typically at night.
“Our goal is to minimize impact as much as possible,” said CDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison.
It's imperative that drivers follow speed limits and pay attention to road signage while traveling the corridor, Rollison said. Drivers can also sign up for text and other alerts, so they know road conditions before traveling the Gap.
“If they're empowered with information they'll be able to plan their commutes better,” Rollison said. “As long as people know what's going on before they head out, that reduces a lot of the anxiety.”
Throughout the first package of work, construction will occur in the center median during phase one, switch to the shoulders in phase two, and in phase three, switch back to the center of the roadway.
Workers will construct a guardrail to separate northbound and southbound traffic, repair wear and tear along the shoulders and build the tolled third lane.
A substantial amount of work will be completed by 2021 and tolling begins 2022, said a spokeswoman for the project.
Residents weigh in
Residents from El Paso and Douglas County have spoken against making the third lane tolled.
Michael VanderMeulen, of Castle Rock, said he'd have preferred CDOT add one general-purpose and one toll lane to the Gap, but was overall glad the project could get underway.
“I'm not necessarily a backer of tolls,” he said, “but it needed to be done.”
CDOT officials fielded numerous questions related to tollways and HOV lanes in an Aug. 22 open house at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock. The tolled lane is also a carpool lane, sometimes referred to as an HOV lane, in which vehicles with three or more people can ride for free.
For much of the two-hour event, John Hall, the I-25 South Gap pre-construction director, stood surrounded by local residents, many with frustrated questions about safety, congestion, the effectiveness of toll lanes and the number of required passengers for carpool lanes.
The agency maintains that an express lane ensures a reliable trip and will ease congestion, more than adding a general-purpose lane would.
Patti Memsic, a Keene Ranch resident, remained unconvinced after speaking with Hall, calling the express lane CDOT's “biggest mistake.”
“It's all about money,” she said. “By making that a toll lane, it's not solving the problem.”
But Mesmic was concerned about more than paying a toll. She was among several residents at the open house who live along West Frontage Road, which parallels I-25 from Plum Creek Parkway to Tomah Road.
People use the west and east Frontage Roads in Castle Rock to bypass congestion on I-25 and speed as they do it, Mesmic said, calling it “a serious problem.”
Among her concerns was how the Gap construction, which will likely lead to slower travel time on I-25, would affect those existing problems.
Hall, a Monument resident, has commuted on the Gap for 15 years and knows the Frontage Road issues well, he said. Backups along I-25 often begins at the Tomah exit where drivers from Frontage Road merge onto the interstate, he said.
CDOT will be staging project management sites along Frontage Roads and closely monitoring the area, he said.
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