US 85 Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is conducting a study referred to as the US 85 Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL). The purpose of the project is to identify the safety and operational needs along US 85 and to develop a strategic vision for US 85 between I-76 and the Town of Nunn.
Previous US 85 Studies
There have been a series of studies completed along the corridor that the PEL will build upon. These include:
- US 85 Corridor Plan — 1992
- US 85 Access Control Plan — 2000
- US 34/US 85 Interchange Feasibility Study — 2001
- North I-25 Environmental Impact Statement — 2011
- US 85 Intersection Safety Analysis — 2012
The study will consider the previous plans to determine whether aspects of these plans and the US 85 Access Control Plan need to be refreshed. Locations in need of improvement will be prioritized. The final study will include an implementation plan to help obtain funding for improvements along corridor.
What is a PEL?
A PEL is defined as “a voluntary approach to transportation decision-making that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the planning stage and carries them through project development, design, and construction.”
PEL is intended to lead to better decision-making and reduce the duplication of efforts in the planning, development, and implementation of projects, including securing funding.
How will the PEL process work?
The PEL study will work with the public and community stakeholders to identify the various transportation deficiencies and needs along the US 85 corridor. The goal with this step is to understand the communities along the US 85 corridor, how the transportation system currently functions, how it impacts communities, and how it can be improved now and in the future. Once these needs are identified, a series of alternatives will be developed to address the needs. The ability of these alternatives to meet the corridor’s needs will be evaluated and considered, along with the effects on the communities and environment.
Some of the considerations that the study will address:
- Are there locations with a lot of crashes?
- Are there recurring types of crashes or patterns of crashes?
- Where are other safety concerns per recent studies?
- How much traffic exists?
- How fast is the traffic going?
- Where is the traffic coming from and headed?
- What kind of vehicles are using the highway?
The project will not only look at current conditions, but will also consider future conditions along US 85 with respect to:
- Community plans
- Land use plans
- Development plans
- Transportation plans
- Energy impacts
- Alternative travel modes
What happens after the PEL is complete?
After the PEL study is complete, CDOT and the local agencies will have a documented set of projects and an implementation plan, which they will use to identify funding for design and implementation.
If federal funds are pursued, a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process will be required. The PEL’s resulting “set of projects” will serve as a bucket-list of improvements that will be implemented along US 85 over time as funding becomes available. The higher priority locations will likely be implemented first, but the goal is to eventually implement all of the projects identified in the PEL as conditions warrant and as funding becomes available; this will take many years.