May 8, 2014 8:42 PM by Andy Koen
PUEBLO - The Colorado Department of Transportation is currently taking bids for an $80 million dollar overhaul of an outdated stretch of Interstate 25 through Pueblo. The Ilex Interchange Project will replace the elevated section of freeway that runs between the 1st Street and Ilex Street, the short road that connects Santa Fe Avenue to Runyon Field.
The bridges that span the elevated section of I-25 were built during the Eisenhower Administration and C-DOT Resident Engineer Joe DeHeart says they are considered structurally deficient.
"It's holding up the traffic well, but it's deteriorated since it's so old," DeHeart said. "We're getting that corrected by removing and replacing it."
The state expects to receive multiple bids by July 31 with construction beginning as early a January. Pueblo County Commissioner Liane Buffie McFadyen says this and other state-funded transportation projects will give a boost to the Pueblo economy.
"Between many of the projects going on with C-DOT over the next few years, we'll have at least 980 new jobs in Pueblo," McFadyen said.
Half of the money for the Ilex project will come from vehicle registration taxes earmarked for bridge replacement under the FASTER program. The other half will come from C-DOT reserves released under the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships (RAMP) program.
Included in the project are repairs to seven other structurally deficient bridges in Pueblo. Those include northbound and southbound I-25 crossing Indiana Avenue, Northern Avenue crossing I-25, Mesa Avenue crossing I-25, northbound I-25 crossing US Hwy 50, eastbound US 50 crossing the Arkansas River and the old green steel truss bridge carrying Santa Fe Avenue over the Arkansas.
"We've got some bridges that are really unhealthy and need some TLC," DeHeart said.
The project is a considerable first step in a major overhaul of the I-25 through Pueblo. DeHeart said additional segments of the freeway will be updated north of 1st Street as far as the US 50/CO Hwy 47 interchange over the course of the next 20 years as funding becomes available.
The Ilex portion was given priority because the outdated slip ramps used to access the highway from 1st Street are unsafe. Commissioner McFadyen said there were 2,230 accidents recorded in that area during a 10 year period between 2002 and 2012.
"That equals about four accidents a week," McFadyen said. "When we sat down and looked at the statistics, we couldn't believe we had the most dangerous section in the whole state per capita."
DeHeart said the new design will meet modern safety standards.
"We're building a brand new lane, giving people the chance to get up to speed before they merge into traffic."
The project is expected to take between 2 1/2 to 3 years to complete. However, DeHeart said a competing contractor may offer to finish things faster.
He and McFadyen are asking driver to be patient during the construction.
"Pueblo's going to be cone zone," McFadyen said. "I hope the people will be patient, but in the end we're going to have a brand new gateway to downtown Pueblo."