Congestion relief sought for Highway 50
Traffic congestion between Pueblo West and Pueblo along Highway 50 ranks among the worst in all of Colorado.
Collectively, local officials are doing everything they can to be awarded project funding that would change the daily commute for thousands of people.
Jointly, officials from Pueblo West, the City of Pueblo and Pueblo County have applied for a RAMP (Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships) application through the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Already through the first round of cuts for approval, the project if awarded would go to great lengths to improve the section of U.S. Highway 50 between the Pueblo City limits and Purcell Boulevard
“We’re looking at congestion relief and safety aspects,” said Greg Severance, a consultant to the county and former Pueblo Public Works director.
“When looking at the volume-to-capacity ratio during peak hours, that section of highway ranks 15th worst in the state.”
Severance and others presented an update on the application to the Pueblo West Board of Directors during their board meeting last week.
During that meeting, Pueblo County Commissioner Buffie McFadyen spoke to directors and thanked Pueblo West for its supporting role in the application.
“When we compare apples to apples, the peak congestion level there is comparable to the I-25/I-225 interchange in Denver,” she said, a statistic she said is surprising to many.
“When we put that in a tangible perspective for the Denver area, they start to understand our problems.”
The project would – in conjunction with another already planned project – widen both directions of Highway 50 from Purcell into the city limits (where current construction is finishing up) to three lanes in each direction. Additionally, an overpass would take the highway above Pueblo Boulevard and Purcell Boulevard, eliminating the need to stop at those two stoplights when traveling the length of Highway 50.
Combined, the two measures would make huge improvements in traffic congestion and shorten commute times for many travelers.
“We think our biggest selling point on this application is that section of highway is number 15 statewide during peak hours on the state congestion corridor list,” Severance said.
The Pueblo Area Council of Governments, or PACOG, submitted the application, as well as another application to improve a section of I-25 through the city that is considered one of the least safe in the state.
McFadyen commended the ability of local governments to work together during her time at the Board of Directors meeting, noting she believes that cooperation also speaks volumes for the applications.
“I can tell you that since being a locally-elected official, I don’t think we’re seeing the cooperation between Pueblo West and Pueblo and the county that we’re seeing today,” she said.
“The work that’s gone into these applications is at a level that challenges every other part of the state.”
Currently, the 128 projects that still remain in the running total about two and a half times the amount of funding available. About 120 of those – including the local applications – are public sector projects that include a cash match requirement.
Winning projects will be chosen by the CDOT Transportation Commission and awarded in late September.
One of the criteria for the RAMP applications is “project readiness,” Severance said.
That means if approved, the Highway 50 project would likely begin early in 2014.