Construction Update: construction on campus west underpass to begin in December

Erin Krigger

Construction will begin on the proposed underpass at the intersection of Elizabeth and Shields in December.

The underpass, which will cost the University approximately $10 million, aims to reduce traffic and congestion at the intersection.

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According to the City of Fort Collins Traffic Department, 2,000 bikes cross the intersection each day, which is up 40 percent since 2009. Car traffic entering the intersection totals around 50,000 vehicles a day.

The location of the project was chosen because the intersection of Elizabeth and Shields streets have historically been a high usage and traffic area for pedestrians and cyclists.

Construction will happen in phases and is projected to end in August 2017. Phase one will be on the CSU side of the underpass from December 2016 to March 2017.

The most debated phase, in terms of community feedback, has been phase two which will be the Shields portion of construction. Construction is still tentative according to Tony Flores, but will either cause Shields to entirely close for three weeks or partially for three months.

Community and student feedback is mixed on the closure, however, a similar underpass project at Center Avenue and Prospect has remained open during construction and also received mixed feedback.

Phase three will be the campus west side of the project and will be completed April 2017 through August 2017. The proposals had to be sensitive to the aesthetic and business owners in Campus West. The current proposal would eliminate only three parking spaces.

The Elizabeth corridor is one of the most congested and heavily traveled corridors in Fort Collins according to Alternative Transportation Manager for CSU, Aaron Fodge.

Many CSU students reside in campus west. There is a large population of students living just off Elizabeth Street in homes and apartment complexes, including Ram’s Village and Ram’s Point.

According to Chris Johnson, the executive director of Bike Fort Collins, the underpass aims to do two things: speed up the traffic flow at the intersection and have a better safety outcomes.

“The Shields and Elizabeth intersection has the highest number of incidents in Fort Collins, and we want to reduce the number of negative interactions,” Johnson said.

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The project is a collaboration between CSU and the City of Fort Collins, but will be funded by CSU. The approximately $10 million bill must be approved by the Board of Governors and will not by funded by student fees.

Students seem to support the underpass, as many have expressed frustration with traveling through the intersection. Some students think CSU should help limit the congestion as campus is promoted to be pedestrian and bike friendly.

“I think it’s a good idea especially if CSU is going to promote themselves as a commuter campus that does not utilize cars,” said Paul Johnson, junior psychology major.

The project is an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between CSU and the City of Fort Collins. The IGA currently states that the underpass should be completed by the first home football game next year.

City Council is expected to vote on the project Oct. 13 in order to begin construction on time.

Collegian reporter Erin Krigger can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @littleekrig.