The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is working hard on efforts to improve I-25. Between 2011 and 2015, there were 5,537 collisions along I-25 between Colorado Springs and C-470. In particular, there is an 18-mile stretch from Monument to C-470 that has been especially known for accidents. CDOT has launched their latest program titled “Mind the Gap”, which specifically focuses on this stretch of highway. The accidents are largely either rear-end or sideswipe collisions among vehicles moving in the same direction, as well as collisions with stationary (fixed) objects or equipment. As with many highways in Colorado, other safety challenges include winter storms and collisions with animals entering the roadway. In the last year, for much of the latter reasons, motorists driving between Monument and Castle Rock on this interstate experienced a 40% delay in travel time.
Problems Are Evident
Mandy Whorton, a transportation consultant, says accidents are a large reason for the traffic flow problems. Approximately 1,300 injuries and 13 fatalities occurred between 2011 and 2015. With the region's continued and projected growth in population, things are worsening. The “wall-to-wall” traffic and lack of shoulder width make clearing an accident scene a slow and dangerous situation. The four-lane stretch from Monument to Castle Rock is traveled each day by over 60,000 vehicles, and the stretch north often reaches 120,000 vehicles daily. Amy Ford of CDOT recently showcased several options for improvement at a program in Castle Rock. Subsequently, Roger Partridge, the Douglas County Commissioner, formed the I-25 Gap Coalition to promote and encourage the CDOT solutions.
CDOT has openly expressed that improvements to the highway must begin immediately.
The first order of business is the “gap” area that reaches over 1,000 feet in elevation. At a minimum, two new lanes per direction are required. The potential for integration of six or more express lanes to relieve some of the congestion, which would be somewhat similar to the stretch between Boulder and Denver on U.S 36, is possible. To truly double the vehicle capacity of the Gap, an eight-lane solution is needed. The state intends to begin construction in 2019 and wants to expedite the process of adding capacity. The state hopes to navigate the planning and environmental work as quickly as possible to begin construction as soon as possible.
The CDOT goal to start the I-25 construction in 2019 is largely dependent on available funds. Projections vary based on the possible specifications of the project but a couple hundred million dollars is certainly needed. Agency officials say that based on the relative importance of the project, they will redirect $15 million in funds to pre construction and environmental work, which will help identify the actual overall costs. The agency is currently involved in a $237 million commitment to the stretch that runs between Johnstown and Fort Collins. Roger Partridge explained that funds will need to be sourced from agencies at the state and federal levels.
“Mind the Gap” Tips
The campaign features five reminders for I-25 travelers between Monument and C-470:
- Space: Maintain adequate distance between the vehicle ahead of you.
- Blind spots: Always check before making lane changes.
- Speed: Be aware of the limits—particularly in the work zones.
- Unexpected problems: Weather events, construction routing, animals in the roadway can cause problems.
- Information: Go to cotrip.org for the latest information.
Move Over for Cody Act
This is a case that exemplifies the dangers that this stretch of highway along I-25 presents. In 2016, Cody Donahue, a Colorado Trooper, was killed when a commercial truck struck him on I-25. Donahue was standing near his State Patrol vehicle with his lights flashing while responding to an earlier accident. The Move Over for Cody Act is a law implemented to protect emergency responders, law enforcement and tow workers that are positioned along the roadway. Because the roadway shoulders along I-25 are narrow in many stretches, CDOT wants drivers to slow down and move over to allow a lane of separation when approaching accident sites & construction zones. Drivers found acting carelessly, such as failing to observe the requirement to move over, may face over one-year in jail and fines up to $5,000. Bill 229 in the Senate raises these infractions in certain cases from a misdemeanor to a low-tier felony.