FOUNTAIN, Colo. (KRDO) -- Crews have started a $5 million south side project near downtown that will improve one neighborhood street, close an adjacent street and ease traffic congestion to and from nearby Interstate 25 and Fort Carson.
The project -- one of the last facets of the city's Moving Fountain Forward plan approved by voters in 2009 -- will widen Indiana Avenue and lengthen it from two blocks to three and add a railroad crossing.
Extending the street will connect it from its existing eastern end at Old Pueblo Road (which becomes Main Street north of that intersection, through downtown) to Santa Fe Avenue (the south end of Highway 85/87) and install traffic signals at that intersection to replace existing stop signs.
City planners say that the project will provide drivers from the south and east sides of town, with an alternate route to the already-congested Santa Fe Ave./Highway 85-87 corridor, and to busy Ohio Avenue several blocks north of Indiana Ave.
"This will relieve congestion on the few east-west corridors we have," said Todd Evans, deputy city manager for Fountain. "It will keep people from having to go through downtown. It will improve and speed access for about 30% to 40% of city residents."
However, improving Indiana Ave. will mean the permanent closing of Illinois Avenue, a block to the north; it has been used as a shortcut, similar to how officials plan to use Indiana Ave.
Closing Illinois Ave. serves two purposes: Reducing traffic around Aragon Elementary School and creating a "quiet zone" where train horns that would disturb neighbors will be prohibited.
"At the time, there was a real citizen concern about noise abatement," said City Councilwoman Jennifer Herzberg. "So, that's kind of what started these projects, was quieting the trains."
Around a dozen homes and several businesses border the construction area; many residents complain about noise, traffic backups and detours generated by the project.
There's also mixed opinion about whether the project will accomplish what city planners believe it will.
"I'm not sure how it's going to work out," said neighbor Julia Olive. "I don't understand moving (Indiana Ave.) 200 feet. I don't think it's going to be a good end process."
But Michelle Franolich, who lives two blocks away from the bulk of the construction, welcomes the project.
"If it's going to help the safety of drivers and kids, then I'm excited for the new opening of roads," she said. Fountain is starting to boom and get bigger."
The project is being funded by a combination of sales tax revenue and federal grant funds; completion is expected this summer.