Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (2024)

What is a PEL study, and what are its benefits?

The PEL study is the first step toward identifying and seeking support for immediate and longer-term solutions for this vital stretch of interstate connecting Colorado Springs and the Denver south area.

Most importantly, the PEL is a tool for CDOT to study the corridor prior to identifying funding for construction. When funds are identified, this process will best position CDOT to accelerate the environmental analyses required before construction begins.

CDOT is fully committed to implementing improvements on I-25; however, the nature, timing and funding of those projects is unknown. Therefore, the PEL is the best tool at this time to lay the groundwork for future improvements by:

  • helping to identify, define and prioritize projects based on the corridor's greatest needs.
  • identifying significant environmental constraints that may influence design options and/or delay project development with lengthy environmental reviews.
  • clarifying project costs, and identifying necessary financing and funding options to implement improvements.
  • providing a framework for CDOT to engage with local corridor communities, regional travelers, and other interested stakeholders to understand their concerns and ideas for immediate and longer-term improvements.
  • supporting an efficient transition to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes, final design and construction advertisem*nt once funding is identified.

The bottom line: Conducting a thorough and inclusive analysis of the corridor deficiencies, safety and operational issues, potential environmental impacts, and costs and funding options through the PEL process will save time in the long run. The recommended solutions must alleviate transportation problems, reflect community needs and values, and have support.

Obtaining support on the best path forward from the public, local agencies, and elected officials is a central PEL objective.

What is NEPA and how does it relate to the PEL?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was originally enacted by Congress in 1970, and establishes a process by which federally funded projects must be evaluated for potential environmental effects prior to approval by the relevant federal agency for clearance to begin construction.

Since CDOT uses federal funding to maintain and improve the interstate and state highway system throughout Colorado, any proposed improvement project must first undergo some level of NEPA review, and be granted approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) prior to commencement of any construction activities.

The detailed review under NEPA is called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and it must be prepared on all "major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." In some cases, the federal agency can exclude certain projects from detailed review and allow for a categorical exclusion (CatEx).

If a project is not categorically excluded, but also is not obviously a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, it must be subjected to an "environmental assessment" (EA). This assessment leads either to the decision to prepare an EIS, or to issuance of a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI). It is anticipated that this project will require an environmental assessment.

Approval for the construction phase of the project is also contingent upon a reasonable expectation of funding for the effort. For this reason, CDOT has historically only commenced a NEPA review of highway-improvement projects if the project funding is anticipated to be available.

With limited transportation funding, the completion of timely NEPA studies that can be approved by FHWA is an increasingly difficult task. For this reason, FHWA developed the planning and environmental linkage (PEL) process, which outlines a process like the one required by NEPA; yet it does not require a project funding commitment. The PEL process is intended to streamline future NEPA studies, saving cost and time, and allowing for a more efficient consideration of immediate needs and improvements that may not require exhaustive environmental impact review and can be done sooner.

Using the PEL process allows us to proceed forward more efficiently with projects as funding is identified, as much of the scoping and analysis done under the PEL process can be rolled into the relevant NEPA process.

In the case of the I-25 South PEL, CDOT has received assurances from FHWA that this approach is appropriate and can help to accelerate the NEPA process, and ultimate project delivery. In fact, it is the goal of CDOT to commence NEPA review of the corridor concurrent to some of the PEL study timeline.

The PEL is scheduled to be completed in mid-2018, and CDOT plans to initiate the NEPA review by the end of 2017 with anticipated approval from FHWA by the end of 2018.

Why doesn't CDOT just widen I-25? What is there to study?

Good question! Widening the highway seems like an easy, quick fix to the congestion and delays from traffic accidents, weather, work zones, special events and other factors. But unfortunately, it's a little more complicated than that.

Here's the short answer: Before going from four to six lanes on the 18 miles from Monument and Castle Rock—sometimes referred to as "The Gap"&madsh;CDOT has to ensure that expansion doesn't adversely impact traffic or neighborhoods on either end of that corridor. And CDOT needs to know if and how widening the interstate will affect the private and public lands along the corridor. Lastly, we want to design and build a quality project that serves our state for years to come.

Here's the longer answer: The interstate both north and south of the 18-mile stretch from Monument to Castle Rock was expanded in separate projects, at various times. When CDOT widened the area north of The Gap, it used projected 2020 volumes. The interstate south of the gap was widened based on projected 2025 traffic volumes. CDOT needs to ensure that improvements on the new project don't cause these adjoining segments to fail. To ensure reliability over time, CDOT has to thoroughly study the issue.

Additionally, there is the problem of "if you build it, they will come." At first, highway expansion provides temporary relief. But the improvements also attract new development and growth, as well as traffic diversions from other congested roadways. As Colorado's population continues to grow (nearly 10,000 people are moving to the state every month), an additional travel lane may help, but it may not provide the relief and travel-time reliability users expect. In fact, it could further congest the roadway segments north and south of The Gap.

For instance, the $1.7 billion expansion project in 2006 known as TREX has attracted many more vehicles. As a result, there are frequent travel delays and traffic congestion throughout the day, seven days per week, along the stretch of I-25 to the north of C-470/E-470. By conducting a PEL study, CDOT can collect and analyze data that characterize the reliability of travel in this corridor, and assess how proposed solutions address the need to provide a predictable and improved travel experience.

The PEL study will also look at opportunities to improve operations in the short term to reduce congestion and provide more predictable travel times for users.

What are the expected outcomes of this study?

By focusing on developing a comprehensive plan that provides immediate and long-term benefits for this critical stretch of I-25, CDOT can implement a plan that identifies immediate, mid-term and long-term projects that address safety, travel, and environmental and funding needs in the corridor.

The implementation plan will be developed with corridor communities and other interested stakeholders, who will help prioritize and identify funding sources for recommended improvements.

Why does the PEL study extend north through Castle Rock to C-470?

The PEL study limits extend north to the I-25/C-470/E-470 interchange in recognition of the corridor travel pattern between Colorado Springs and the Denver metro area, the significance to regional mobility of maintaining a seamless connection between C-470/E-470 and I-25, and the importance of maximizing the substantial transportation investments underway and planned for these highways.

The I-25/C-470/E-470 interchange connects the Colorado Springs and Denver south communities to significant regional destinations, including the I-70 mountain corridor and Denver International Airport. Additionally, traffic volumes between Castle Rock and C-470 are the highest within the study corridor, and improvements through this stretch were built to address 2020 traffic projections (essentially today's volumes). Continued growth in this area affects or could be affected by improvements in the Gap section.

How far south do the PEL study limits extend?

The southern study limit for potential physical improvements begins at Monument, recognizing that the immediate stretch of I-25 between Monument and Colorado Springs was widened from four to six lanes in 2014. However, the study acknowledges the significant travel influence of the Colorado Springs and El Paso County areas on I-25, so the study will consider the travel demand from areas south of Monument.

What improvements will the PEL study evaluate?

The PEL study will evaluate a range of funding and technical alternatives related to potential improvements specific to the unique problems and needs in the corridor. Alternatives may include:

  • operational improvements, such as improved traveler information;
  • location-specific improvements, such as curve modifications or auxiliary or passing lanes; and
  • larger improvements, such as added capacity (tolled and/or non-tolled lanes) for short or long stretches of the interstate.

During this current phase of the PEL study, CDOT is:

  • collecting traffic data; assessing existing infrastructure—such as bridge conditions—against current design standards;
  • characterizing community and environmental constraints; and
  • gathering user experiences and input regarding the specific issues within the corridor.

When does CDOTanticipate finishing the PEL study?

The PEL study is anticipated to be fully completed by mid-2018. By mid-2017, CDOT anticipates having a range of alternatives, some of which may be advanced if funding is identified, even as the PEL study is continuing. Examples of early actions include design survey, geotechnical investigations, permanent or pilot safety and/or operational improvements, and early design of high-priority improvements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jamar Nader

Last Updated:

Views: 5655

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jamar Nader

Birthday: 1995-02-28

Address: Apt. 536 6162 Reichel Greens, Port Zackaryside, CT 22682-9804

Phone: +9958384818317

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Scrapbooking, Hiking, Hunting, Kite flying, Blacksmithing, Video gaming, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Jamar Nader, I am a fine, shiny, colorful, bright, nice, perfect, curious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.