Major road construction could help secure U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs

Nearly $160 million in key road improvements could help Colorado Springs make the case it should be the permanent home for U.S. Space Command, officials announced Monday. 

The Colorado Department of Transportation detailed grant funding for four construction projects, known as the Military Access, Mobility & Safety Improvement Project, which will include 7.5 miles of improvements along Interstate 25 and work along Colorado Highway 94. Funding for the projects includes $108 million from CDOT, $18 million from a U.S. Department of Transportation grant and $31.1 million from El Paso County.

The projects are intended to help solve long-standing problems with congestion, ensure the region is ready for future growth, and help prevent about 35 deaths and more than 100,000 motor vehicle-related injuries in the 20 years after they are finished, CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew, said at a Monday news conference. Wider shoulders, lighting and other improvements are expected to prevent deaths, she said. 

"Colorado remains committed to ensuring the operation success of our military, even as the community continues to grow, and bases accept new personnel missions and responsibilities," Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said.  "This commitment further demonstrates why Colorado is the only permanent home for U.S. Space Command." 

Highway 94 has been a concern for U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett when considering Colorado Springs for Space Command and the new construction will remove that barrier, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said at the news conference.

Retired Air Force Col. James Ross said the Highway 94 project is particularly meaningful to him because his first official duty as the commander of the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base in 2011 was to attend the funeral of Air Force Capt. Vivian Elmo, who died on the road when going home from work at the base.    

"It was absolutely heartbreaking," he said. 

Along Highway 94, CDOT expects to put in a new left turn lane to serve Blaney Road, ensuring garbage trucks headed for the landfill don't slow down eastbound traffic as much, according to the agency. 

To serve Fort Carson, CDOT will be paving Charter Oak Ranch Road between I-25 and Gate 19 to allow staff and visitors to use it as regular entrance. The road is currently crumbling, with poor drainage and steep narrow lanes, according to CDOT. The improvement is expected to help take some pressure off Gate 20, which regularly sees traffic backups that extend to the I-25 off ramps.

The road improvement is expected to help eliminate the need for soldiers and families to drive a total of 26,000 highway miles a day and save some commuters 20 to 30 minutes per day, Col. Nate Springer said.

Along I-25 from south Academy Boulevard to Santa Fe Avenue, crews will widen shoulders, replace the two bridges over south Academy Boulevard, and install median barriers along the entire length of the corridor, according to CDOT. South Academy Boulevard will be widened from East Las Vegas Street to Pikes Peak Community College, from two lanes in each direction to three lanes in each direction, according to CDOT. 

The projects will be sequenced so it does not feel to residents like they are all happening at the same time, Lew said. However, construction along I- 25, South Academy Boulevard and Charter Oak Ranch Road are all scheduled to start in fall 2020, according to a news release. 


By: Mary Shinn

Colorado Springs Gazette