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While Chaffee County residents often like to complain about growth, our woes pale beside the growth occurring on the Front Range. With 7,000 people working at Schriever Air Force Base, some 511 new personnel expected over the next year, and future growth due to defense priorities and up to 9,000 new housing units nearby in future years, it is no secret that Colorado Springs is growing. That growth may well include the return of the U.S. Space Command. That possibility has Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) working together.

Colorado seems poised to address the growing mobility concerns along the stretch of highway connecting Schriever Air Force Base and Peterson Air Force Base. Colorado State Highway 94 has become a top consideration during CDOT’s planning process to redesign the road. The process to reclassified it as a non-rural highway only began seriously in 2010.

Photo courtesy of Schriever Air Force Base.

Schriever’s economic impact in the local area for the fiscal year 2018 was $1.35 billion. It solely operates the national GPS constellation of more than 30 satellites that provides worldwide precision, navigation and timing services to approximately four billion users for both military and civilian purposes.

An exchange of letters between Polis and Lamborn reveal the concerns and the process by which solutions will be developed. Following an in-person meeting with Lamborn last week, Polis responded to Lamborn on April 19, explaining that CDOT Director Shoshana Lew, is currently working on various capacity and safety improvements on Highway 94 to the west of Enoch Road toward the City of Colorado Springs.

His letter outlines the eastbound improvements will be made to improve flow and safety for the large hill area near the El Paso County waste facility, including improving a merge condition. Other improvements being designed include westbound passing lanes in the section between Schriever and the city. The plant will include better lighting, as Schriever is now considered a 24-hour facility. Construction funding for these enhancements is estimated to be between $7 million and $10 million.

Lamborn’s April 22 written statement confirmed support for the road improvements. “As many in the community are aware, Highway 94 is one lane in each direction and includes conditions such as steep inclines, narrow shoulders, and has needed investments to widen it for years. With 9,000 new homes scheduled to be built in future years, and the increasingly significant role Schriever and Peterson will have in our national security space efforts ….[Polis] understands the need to prioritize improvements to this stretch of road with the State of Colorado.”

Polis’s message included word of continued military growth for the area, requiring the acquisition of land for road improvements. “Recently, Schriever leadership was notified that 5,322 acres between U.S. 94 and the installation, just east of Enoch Road, has been purchased. The developer plans 8,951 housing units on property adjacent to Schriever. Colorado must consider the importance of transportation infrastructure in providing access to this facility, and to nearby Peterson AFB, and support their missions.”

The statement from Lamborn’s office endorsed the effort: “As our community prepares for the increasingly likely return of U.S. Space Command to Colorado Springs, I am working hard to ensure our local bases are in the best position to win. One of the many factors the Department of Defense considers when looking to stand up a new command is transportation and accessibility. During my productive meeting with … Polis, he pledged to fully support the return of U.S. Space Command to Colorado fully and prioritized Highway 94 with the Colorado Department of Transportation. Finally widening and modernizing Highway 94 would be a tremendous improvement to our defense infrastructure. I commend the governor’s efforts and look forward to continuing to work with him on moving this initiative forward.”

The full text of Polis’s letter announcing the improvements is available here: