Time to celebrate! The long-awaited reconfiguration of Arapahoe Road and I-25 is slated for completion next summer. Balloons signaled last week’s “Taco Thursday,” celebrating the near finish of the Arapahoe portion. Photo by Peter Jones
BY PETER JONES
A gift bag passed out on Arapahoe Road last week said everything about the long-awaited, but ongoing redesign at the street’s nearby intersection with I-25.
“We’ve got a stress reliever. We’ve got lollipops because construction sucks,” said Lauren Masias, the director of community engagement for Denver South Economic Development Partnership, which has driven the project to the onramp and beyond.
Dig a little deeper into the bag and you might even find an air freshener “to help cleanse your senses as you maneuver through construction,” a handout explained.
Last week’s “Taco Thursday” in the parking lot outside El Tapatio restaurant near the interchange was an opportunity for leading partners Denver South and the Colorado Department of Transportation to thank area businesses, residents and whoever else happened to drive by for their patience and support during the years-long $66 million project.
“If you remember, cars used to back up on I-25 going southbound,” said Bob Wilson, CDOT’s communications manager. “People would be driving 60 mph and come up on stopped traffic. That’s been eliminated. Now we have three left-turn lanes.”
Although an afternoon of free tacos—hashtag #tacos—was partly in celebration of the new normal [at least on the Arapahoe Road end of the construction], the thoroughfare shared by Centennial and Greenwood Village is not technically out of the traffic jam yet.
Arapahoe’s final eastbound alignment was slated for completion this week, and the road will be briefly closed for repaving later this month, Wilson cautioned. Then comes the remaining work on I-25, involving some late-night lane closures, before the entire project finally hits the exit ramp next summer.
More tacos then, perhaps?
“It’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to be a vast improvement,” Masias said. “Our mission is to improve connectivity to and from the Denver South corridor, as well as enhance the connectivity within it.”
The project is on time and on budget, the officials emphasized.
The nonprofit Denver South has served as a sort of umbrella organization for the reconfiguration, along with CDOT and a range of other interested intergovernmental partners, including the cities of Centennial and Greenwood Village, Arapahoe County and the Federal Highway Administration.
The intersection was long considered among the most congested in the metro area and has been a focus in local politics since at least the incorporation of Centennial in 2001.
The widely supported project includes an additional lane along westbound Arapahoe from Yosemite Street to Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, three left-turn lanes from the I-25 off-ramps, realignment of the frontage road in the northeast quadrant of the interchange, noise walls near the intersection of Arapahoe and Yosemite, and the partial widening of Yosemite.
As all that work has gone on in the neighborhood, Masias says partnering with the cooperating local businesses, such as El Tapatio, Target and Dairy Queen, has been a pleasure.
“Everyone has been tolerant and patient. Everyone has been really eager to work with us,” she said.
Two of the most interested parties—the cities of Centennial and Greenwood Village—are both pleased to finally see a light at the end of tunnel.
“I’m thrilled at the excellent progress that has been made here and how this project will make people’s lives better,” Greenwood City Councilmember Freda Miklin said.
Centennial Councilmember C.J. Whelan, a candidate for mayor, noted that transportation issues, and the Arapahoe/I-25 interchange in particular, have always rated high in resident polls on what should be the city’s priorities.
“This is a main corridor that serves both our citizens and businesses and this improvement is going to help dramatically,” he said. “We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”
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