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US 24 east: an overlooked highway in need of expansion - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

US 24 east: an overlooked highway in need of expansion

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Colorado State Troopers attend the scene of a fatal head on collision along US 24 near Peyton on May 23, 2017 Colorado State Troopers attend the scene of a fatal head on collision along US 24 near Peyton on May 23, 2017
EL PASO COUNTY -

The Highway 24 corridor east of Colorado Springs doesn't get quite the same attention that other problem highways do like I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock. Still, transportation engineers believe the area needs to be widened and they would do it if the money was available.

As part of a long term Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study, the Colorado Department of Transportation recorded some 674 accidents through the corridor between 2010 and 2015. That's an average 135 wrecks per year or roughly 2.5 per week. Folks who drive the highway regularly understand the need.

"It gets really crazy out there, you've got a lot of people that can't wait until it's safe," said Lisa Whitworth who lives in Ramah and commutes to Falcon for work each day.

Farther south, John Tafoya works near the intersection of Highway 24 and Powers Boulevard. He frequently sees rush hour back ups either at the Peterson Road exit in the morning or the CO 94 traffic light in the evening.

"It's a lot of congestion since they've had Falcon out there growing and everything," Tafoya said. "By the time they expand it, it's going to be too late I think."

The state started work in April on a safety improvement project extending merge lanes at Garrett Road where the highly currently fans out from two lanes to four.

"I think it's going to be a better improvement, you know, smoother easier on the tires," said driver Raymond Thillet.

Long term, C-DOT has plans to widen the highway all the way north to the El Paso County line.

"Certainly all the way through Calhan and I think long term projections are, maybe even further beyond that but making sure that this stretch of road is as safe as it can be and that we're moving traffic along the best that we can as well," explained El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller.

The total projected cost for the widening work would cost about $67 million, money that isn't currently available in the state transportation budget. The project is included in a list of 70 priority transportation needs, but is considered a Tier II project meaning it's less urgent than some $2.5 billion worth of other highway improvements.

Waller said State Lawmakers have neglected highway funding for years in favor of expanding Medicaid and improving schools and prisons. Leaders in the State House and State Senate tried but failed to agree on a comprehensive highway plan during last legislative session.

"I'm at least excited that state government is starting to look at this as a real serious issue and I'm hopeful that we're going to be able to prioritize transportation moving forward," Waller said.

Still, drivers fear the longer we wait, the worse the congestion and safety will become.

"That's like just I-25," Tafoya said. "The three lanes should already be there and we should be talking about adding a fourth lane, really."

"There's a lot of people out here and it's only getting worse," Whitworth added. "If we don't look ahead and expand now, we're going to be in trouble."

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