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By Griffin Swartzell, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 25, 2019
Crashes remain a possibility at the Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado east gate intersection with Marksheffel Road, where a recent collision damaged the guard rail along the right turn lane, pictured Sept. 23, 2019. Thanks to a partnership between Peterson's 21st Civil Engineer Squadron and the city of Colorado Springs, construction has begun on a proper traffic signal for the intersection, which should be complete by late October. (Air Force photo by Griffin Swartzell)
Contractors began installing a full traffic light outside of the east gate at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, at Marksheffel Road, Sept. 20, 2019. Construction will take an estimated four weeks to complete. Todd Frisbie, Colorado Springs city traffic engineer, says construction has been scheduled outside of peak usage hours.
“We [can expect] short-term lane closures between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.,” he says. “Typically, we do not have overnight closures or long-term closures.”
Predominantly, Frisbie says that commuters will see occasional closures of the right turn lane on southbound Marksheffel Road. Glenn Messke, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron base planner, says that the bulk of the work will be completed on weekdays.
In May of 2019, the 21st CES and the city of Colorado Springs collaborated to add signage and altered striping — lane lines — to reduce traffic collisions where the east gate lets out onto Marksheffel Road. These changes substantially reduced crashes at that intersection, according to both Messke and Frisbie. However, according to Messke, this was simply the first step as city and 21st CES engineers worked to design and fund a traffic signal for the intersection.
Fred Brooks, 21st CES flight chief, notes that much of the infrastructure for the light was already in place, which makes construction simpler and lower impact.
“The poles that are already out there are going to have cabling added on to them and lights hung from those cables,” he says. “It’s not going to be mast arms out there.”
When finished, the intersection will be what’s called a Florida-T intersection. As Frisbie explains it, the rightmost northbound lane on Marksheffel Road will be continuously green.
“Vehicles turning left going northbound will turn into a median area, then accelerate and merge into traffic,” he explains. “The intersection will operate the same, in that the northbound through traffic will not stop.”
Ultimately, Frisbie says the city was able to source money from the Highway User Trust Fund and pay for the whole of the project from that.
“Our public works director, Travis Easton, said ‘I have a way to fund the traffic signal, so let’s go forward with a cost estimate,’” says Frisbie. “It’s not city general fund money… It comes from property taxes.”
Brooks says this kind of collaboration between the Air Force and community partners tends to be a major win-win situation for all involved.
“There have been more than 1,000 initiatives and 300 agreements that have generated $51 million in Air Force benefits and $26 million in community benefits,” he says. “I think this is a testament to the strength that we have in our partnership with Colorado Springs Utilities and the city of Colorado Springs, and we're continuing to grow our relationship. This is just a great example of what it's like when we come together.”