City Councilor Nancy Henjum is likely to get an earful this Saturday while hosting a town hall meeting about east-west mobility, notably the improvement of Constitution Avenue, a proposal similar to one residents fought some 20 years ago and thought had been laid to rest.
But now, as one resident says via email to Sixty35 news magazine, the city has been “sneaky” by proposing to move forward with a study to resurrect the project.
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at Stratton Elementary School, 2460 Paseo Road.
The city’s meeting announcement noted the meeting would host discussion of “a potential study addressing East-West mobility for the Fillmore Street and Uintah Street corridors. At minimum, the proposed feasibility study would consider widening Fillmore Street, extending Constitution Avenue from Union Boulevard to I-25 utilizing existing right-of-way, or maintaining the current roadway configuration with the understanding that traffic congestion and delay will likely increase. Other strategies will be developed and analyzed through a robust public process planned with a future feasibility study.”
Some time ago, residents cried foul over the city’s attempt to revisit an issue that arose in the 1990s and early 2000s that called for extending Constitution to Interstate 25. A major roadblock lies in Monument Valley Park, land dedicated by city founder William Jackson Palmer with a deed restriction that the property not be used for any purpose other than a park. In the early 1970s, when the city tried to drive a road through the park, the League of Women Voters fought it, prevailing in a lawsuit.
A few months ago, the city pulled the Constitution project from a ballot measure asking to extend the 1-cent sales tax for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. The measure passed. While not part of the PPRTA plan, Constitution’s extension has re-emerged in the city’s ConnectCOS plan, residents say.
Resident Tim Wolken, a former official with El Paso County, noted in an email to others labeled “Stop the Expressway Update”:
“At this meeting, the City will indicate that the draft Plan only includes a feasibility study for the expressway. The recent estimate for the study is $2.5 million. It is unlikely the City would spend such a large amount of funds and then not proceed. So the feasibility study is really more of a justification study. Let’s strongly encourage the City to abandon the expressway project as past City leaders have done due to significant negative impacts to our historic neighborhoods and citizen opposition.”
He also urges residents to sign a petition opposing the project. As of today, Jan. 18, 975 people had signed.
Another resident, Ren Willis, says in an email to Sixty35 that after the project was excised from the PPRTA measure, “We thought that was the end of it. However we have learned that when removed from the PPRTA, it was moved to the ConnectCOS project list – from a regional transportation project to a City one. This is sneaky.”
“The route proposed,” she continues, “cuts through schools, historic neighborhoods, and the Rock Island Trail which is part of the Legacy Loop Trail System.”
Willis further notes that on the city’s ConnectCOS project list, the project is described as a “limited access, mutli-modal roadway” that would “[minimize] neighborhood and school impact.”
“But a few columns to the right of that description,” she points out, “the list describes the extent of the impact of this project as ‘high.'”
In addition, in another document the city describes the project as a “Principal Arterial” thoroughfare, Willis notes.
Noting two schools — Stratton Elementary and Horace Mann Middle Schools — lie in the project area, Willis says the plan would “put a major throughway right in front of where young children play outside during recess.”
She and others are skeptical of promises that no homes will be claimed by the project or that the project won’t disrupt the atmosphere of neighborhoods in that vicinity.
As Willis says, “This is a unique neighborhood where many walk rather than drive, and greet each other on our walks. I invite you to walk around Kittyhawk and Bonn with me. You will see how this horrible expressway would bisected our neighborhood.”
That said, she’s hopeful residents will be as successful as they were in the past in fighting off similar plans. “I don’t feel it’s a done deal,” she says.