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Vegetation/Invasive Tree Species Removal Sets Stage for I-25/Cimarron Interchange Reconstruction

April 29, 2015 - Southeastern Colorado/CDOT Region 2 - Colorado Springs – Construction crews are expected to begin removing vegetation and invasive tree species (clearing and grubbing) this week as part of the preliminary work on the Interstate-25/Cimarron Interchange Reconstruction Project.

This operation will take place in the southwest quadrant of the interchange.  

Clearing and grubbing – necessary to facilitate earthwork, utility relocations and initial bridge work along the west side of I-25 - will be noticeable. “We certainly recognize the upcoming changes in the area’s landscape,” said Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) Project Director Dave Watt, “but the majority of trees being removed are invasive species and do not add to the creek experience. We’re asking for the public’s patience, as this clearing work is a first step to what ultimately will be a tremendous enhancement to the surrounding area and the interchange operations,” said Watt. “As the interchange is reconstructed and the new native species plantings mature, the result will be a ‘gateway exit’ into downtown Colorado Springs and the mountain communities to the west.” 

From the project team’s field survey, 80 percent of the trees being removed are non-native, invasive species.  They are non-native because the way Fountain and Monument creeks have been channelized, allowing the non-native species to take over the area and choke out the native species, negatively harming the fish habitat. In areas where it is possible, the more mature, native cottonwood trees will be saved.

Community stakeholder input led the project team to restore Fountain Creek in such a way as to treat the creek as an amenity, enable the trail to get closer to the creek, and allow access to the waterways. Native species will be replanted as part of the creek restoration efforts. This was the intent of the community stakeholders who worked with the project team over the past14 months, as well coordination that has taken place between CDOT, the City Parks Department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Fountain Creek restoration along Gold Hill Mesa is the example the community stakeholders wanted to achieve. You can now see the native vegetation coming back in that area and filling in,” added Watt.

In restoring Fountain Creek to its natural state, the project will:

o   Create a healthier creek and ecosystem

o   Improve fish habitat

o   Increase flood water conveyance

o   Promote the creek as an amenity

o   Meander the creek alignment

o   Remove invasive species of trees/vegetation that have taken over the sides of the creek

o   Add native species trees/vegetation

In addition, the project will extend the Midland Trail west along Fountain Creek through 8th Street for a connection to the future Midland Greenway Trail. The clearing and grubbing work will enable the contractor to replace the Cimarron Street Bridge over Upper Fountain Creek, west of I-25.

“This preliminary work represents a good and critical first step toward construction of this important transportation asset,” concluded Watt.

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Background: The I-25/Cimarron Street (US 24) Interchange Design-Build project is the second largest highway construction project in the Pikes Peak region since the reconstruction of I-25, known as COSMIX (Colorado Springs Metropolitan Expansion) was completed in 2008. More than 150,000 vehicles travel through the interchange daily, making it one of the region’s busiest.  The interchange is of high significance to the state because it is a primary entryway to downtown Colorado Springs, the historic Westside communities and US 24 west.

 

The project limits: The planned upgrades include rebuilding the I-25 interchange between Colorado Avenue on the north and South Nevada Avenue to the south. The US 24 project boundaries are between 8th Street on the west and the Union Pacific-BNSF railroads joint line/Cimarron Street Bridge to the east.  

 

Improvements are intended to provide enhanced operations, correct existing safety and design deficiencies, and to serve the anticipated short- and long-term travel demands in this area.  When complete, this will be a high-functioning interchange that safely handles more vehicles and enhances multi-modal travel for those using I-25, US 24/Cimarron Street and the trail system along Monument and Fountain creeks.

The project will:

•    Reconstruct I-25 to provide improved highway alignment and improved ramps and acceleration and deceleration lanes and shoulders, for better operations and safety on I-25;

•    Reconstruct I-25 bridge structures;

•    Enhance interchange traffic flow and safety operations; and

•    Provide better trail connections, improved water quality and aesthetic enhancements.

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