Wellington’s growing fast. According to U.S. Census figures, Wellington only grew 21% between 1990 and 1999 (1,203 to 1,458), but between 1999 and 2017 it grew 484% (from 1,458 to 8,516). (https://www.google.com) More people drive more cars in and out of more neighborhoods, largely to the southeast and southwest. I-25 nicely bisects much of that new growth, but we currently have just one interchange: the one funneling traffic down Highway 1 and Cleveland Avenue. A recent fatal accident near that interchange highlights two facts: I-25 at Highway 1 offers no pedestrian friendly crossing and if that interchange is blocked, emergency vehicles must travel far out of their way to address any nearby problems or transport people quickly.
Wellington’s mayor, Tim Singewald, is aware of the issue and has been working with county and state officials to figure out answers, but this problem, like many comes down to basic issues like time, money, priorities and political will.
Johnny Olson, Regional Transportation Director with CDOT says that the Town of Wellington needs to put such things in their long range planning and get on the priorities list of the Transportation Planning Region Upper Front Range (UFR). As the need for a new or modified interchange rises, then the state must find funds.
Singewald noted that Olson has said that our I-25 overpass currently meets or surpasses safety standards, so doesn’t rate reworking on those grounds. Singewald says he also spoke to Governor Hickenlooper about 4 months ago regarding traffic at the interchange. He says the governor seems more inclined to spend at least some of the discretionary money he has available on electric charging stations for vehicles—a need he anticipates as more people begin to buy and drive electrically powered cars.
Singewald also brought up the issue of trying to get a southerly exit for Wellington that could accomplish several things: alleviate congestion at Highway 1, provide shorter access times between Wellington’s bisected southern ends, and give emergency vehicles more options if the Highway 1 exit becomes blocked. Singewald says that from his discussions with county and state officials there appear to be no money reserves for that. Of course, a serious accident might highlight that need, but one would hope that prudent and farsighted planning would happen first.
Olson says that some engineering constraints need to be addressed and he promised to research just what those would be. Details weren’t available by the deadline of this article.
Wellington did complete a pedestrian underpass that allows students and others to cross beneath I-25 near Rice Elementary. It connects with pedestrian/bike paths on either side of the interstate. The town has reminded citizens about this route in the information sheet included with the town water bill.
Some estimates say that Northern Colorado may see 500,000 new residents by 2040. While no one knows how many of those may choose Wellington for their future home, Wellington is sure to grow.