Cost Savings May Tilt Scales for North Meadows Alignment
By Terri Wiebold
The Town of Castle Rock (Town) continues to move forward with plans to construct a second access from the Meadows area to US 85 and on to I-25. A recent decision from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to allow an at-grade intersection at the Atrium Drive alternative until such time as an interchange may be necessary could potentially save the Town $14 million, making the choice of alignments much easier.
According to Robert Goebel, director of Public Works for the Town, the new roadway will provide traffic congestion relief at the existing intersection of Meadows Parkway and with US 85 and at the Meadows/Founders Parkway interchange with I-25. It will also reduce back up on I-25 from the existing south-bound I-25 off ramp, as well as provide better access to neighboring Castle View High School.
The Town Council of Castle Rock gave the public works department a “green light” on January 13 to continue to move forward with plans to construct a two-lane road from the Meadows to US 85 and a four-lane road from US 85 to I-25, with an interchange at I-25. The County is considering two alignment alternatives; one would connect to US 85 at Castlegate Drive and the other at Atrium Drive. Both alignments would meet I-25 north of the Meadows/Founders Parkway exit at the same point, at which a new interchange would be built.
Originally, CDOT had directed the Town to build an overpass to take the new road over US 85 so travel on the highway would not be compromised. However, the Town conducted a traffic analysis that said an at-grade intersection would operate at an acceptable level of service until at least 2030. After considering that study, CDOT agreed to allow an at-grade intersection at US 85 for the initial construction. In the future, as traffic increases, an interchange may be needed.
Potential good new for residents in Castle Pines Village (Village)
An at-grade intersection with US 85 could only be built with the Atrium alignment. That is because an at-grade intersection would require the relocation of about one mile of Union Pacific Railroad track slightly west. Relocating the track is not possible with the Castlegate alignment due to the proximity of the East Plum Creek. This is good news for many residents in the Village, who are opposed to the Castlegate Drive alignment due to its close proximity to the southern border of the community.
According to Art Griffith, CIP Manager for Douglas County, obtaining cooperation from the railroad to allow the track relocation may be the most critical step for an at-grade intersection at US 85 and Atrium alternative to move forward. “Convincing the railroad to relocate to a potentially less desirable location may prove to be monumental task,” stated Griffin.
Goebel agreed by adding, “Support for this relocation by the neighboring communities and land owners is imperative for this alignment to be successful.”
Cost Savings and Funding
Building an at-grade intersection instead of an overpass at US 85 could result in cost savings of as much as $14 million. According to Castle Rock Town Manager Mark Stevens, “In our opinion, that [Atrium] is clearly the best project.”
The cost of the Atrium alignment with an interchange is estimated at $64 million. With an at-grade intersection, the cost drops to $49.9 million – including the relocation of the railroad track. The cost of the Castlegate alignment is estimated at $59.6 million.
Only the segment of road between the Meadows development and US 85 is currently funded, stated Goebel. “A financial plan option to complete the segment between US 85 and I-25 is directly associated with cooperation from the Village and Douglas County.”
While the Village has not submitted any formal proposal to the County to date, preliminary discussions have included an interest in limiting access to Happy Canyon Road in exchange for funding contributions in the amount of $7 million, according to a staff report Goebel submitted to the Town on January 13, 2009.
Because Happy Canyon Road is located in unincorporated Douglas County and is under the governance of the County Commissioners, a significant public process – including solicitation of public input – would take place prior to any decisions being made.
“In order for this to even be a consideration, it would require a replacement facility or “bypass” that would allow thru traffic a reasonable alternate route between US 85 and I-25. The North Meadows Extension project may provide that opportunity,” he stated.
CDOT’s decision will allow the Town to compare the alternatives and make a decision on a preferred alternative early in 2009. For now, the Town Rock will continue with the environmental assessment process, then select a preferred alternative, and finally submit to the Federal Highway Administration for review and a Decision of Record.
“If all goes well during the environmental assessment, we hope to get completed documents in the fall [October] and a Record of Decision by the end of the year,” said Goebel. He continued to state that this is really the only shot to get something done in the short term that still meets the purpose and need identified for the project.
“It is important to continue to all pull together on a compromise that is certainly a great benefit to the regional traffic flow over the no-build option, stated Goebel. “This is all great news…it provides a regional solution to a very complex project if we continue to work together.”
An open house for public comment and input is scheduled for the evening of April 2, 2009 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Castle View High School, located at 5254 North Meadows Drive in Castle Rock.
For more information on the North Meadows Extension, visit the Town’s web page at www.CRgov.com and click on the TAP Update icon, or contact Director of Public Works Robert Goebel at 720-733-2475 or Contact by e-mail.
Click here to read a press release from the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners on this issue.