Monument Valley Freeway - CSPM

Monument Valley Freeway

A July 1953 article in the Colorado Springs Free Press identified the route of the new highway through Colorado Springs as “roughly parallel to Monument Creek.” City Traffic and Planning Engineer Floyd Tanaka described the goal of removing traffic from Nevada Avenue. He also tried to explain the benefits of this novel type of highway, “…There will be no stoplights on the freeway and other traffic would cross the proposed highway through a system of overpasses and underpasses…The access to the freeway will be limited and traffic will be faster and safer.“

– From the CSPM Curator of History

The National Interstate Highway System was proposed in 1944 with the intent of allowing citizens, businesses, and the military to travel across the nation with speed and ease. US 87, which extended from New Mexico, at its southern end, to Wyoming, at its northern end, was a part of this system. Along this route was Colorado Springs. Planning for construction in Colorado Springs began immediately but the first and most pressing question was where to place the new road.

In 1947 Dan W. Ormsbee, urban engineer for the Department of Highways, submitted a report outlining 3 possible routes. The Union Avenue Line would run along the eastern edge of the city. The Shooks Run Line would follow the Sante Fe railroad on the eastern segment of the city. The third, the Walnut Street Line, paralleled Monument Valley Park through the center of the city. As the project progressed citizens became increasingly worried about the proposed Walnut Street Line and in 1949 the Monument Valley Freeway Protest Association formed to oppose it. City officials made assurances that no firm plans had yet been made. Then in 1953, as planning progressed, the City confirmed their desire to utilize the Walnut Street Line. Fred Callahan Sr., Chariman of the Association, helped to circulate petitions protesting the route once again.

Among the Association’s list of grievances was that the Walnut Street line was the costliest of the proposed routes and that the City’s estimate that 75 homes would be affected was a gross understatement. The City was unmoved, however, and construction of the Monument Valley Freeway began along the proposed Walnut Street Line. The State Highway Department reported that construction would affect 100 homes. By the time the freeway was completed 321 parcels of land had been acquired from 236 owners.

Construction began in earnest in 1955 and it would be another 5 years until the freeway opened to a grand ceremony in July of 1960. Today the Monument Valley Freeway is simply known as the Colorado Springs segment of Interstate 25, which services millions of cars a year. Few realize that the Freeway didn’t just cost money, but also the loss of an historic neighborhood.

Generously Submitted by Patrick Lee, CSPM Museum Technician

Collection Gallery

Additional Sources: