I-25 expansion gets fully funded, groundbreaking could be this year

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving $65 million to Colorado to finish funding the expansion of Interstate 25 north of Monument, and unless you've been living under a Castle Rock, you know what kind of news this is.

"It's huge."

That's El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller's take on the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant funding, which was announced Tuesday with great fanfare by Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet.

Driving on I-25 north of Monument can go one of two ways: it's either flowing smooth but still nearly bumper-to-bumper, or you're appreciating the intricate detail of the pavement ahead of you as it passes at 5 mph.

According to CDOT, those two lanes are especially prone to congestion -- in 2016, there were no days without delays of 40 percent or greater for some period of the day.

The highway was built in the '60s for an expected population in the '80s of about 3 million. Now, the state is projected to grow to 8 million -- clearly, the need for expansion is there.

So how is the federal money going to help?

The plan is to build another lane in each direction, and the project was tabbed at $350 million. The state is kicking in $250 million, and El Paso and Douglas counties are kicking in a total of $35 million. That left a gap of $65 million that the state was working to solve -- ideas included toll lanes and tax shifts.

CDOT said making the third lane an express lane with a variable toll is the preferred route, and the project is proceeding with the assumption that it'll be an express lane.

"Tolls would be higher during peak travel times and lower during non-peak times to ensure the choice of a free-flowing lane," CDOT said.

Waller said now that the state has secured funding, it can work on a groundbreaking a lot sooner than expected. A groundbreaking could happen this year, which Waller said was "unheard of" considering the scope and timing of the project.

The state applied for money from the INFRA grant, but so did hundreds of other communities. Waller said when the state got a follow-up questionnaire about a month ago, it was a strong indication their request was in the running.

In addition to the $65 million for the I-25 gap, Colorado will get another $25 million to add a 12-mile shoulder lane on Interstate 70 in Clear Creek County.

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