‘No Man’s Land’ cost estimate up to $5.25M
But hoped-for CDOT grant remains on hold

       A year ago, Colorado Springs City Engineer Cam McNair priced potential costs for the so-called “No Man's Land” public improvements along West Colorado Avenue at about $2.6 million and expressed hope at a public meeting about a new grant program through the Colorado Department of Transporta-tion (CDOT).
       Today, the drainage and pedestrian safety proposals are estimated at $5.25 million, McNair said in a recent interview. Now going under the euphemistic title of “West Colorado Avenue Street-scape,” the project is, however, no closer to being built… although it has been added to the city's just-released 2008-2012 list of 47 “high priority” (but unfunded) capital improvement projects.
       The more-than-doubled cost estimate stems from an enlarged project scope - mainly a bridge over Fountain Creek that previously was not part of the avenue plans. Also, McNair said, City Engineering is trying to reflect the reality of the situation: Because of inflated construction costs over the past year and the unlikelihood that the work can be started anytime soon, engineers have tried to anticipate what such a project will really cost when it eventually does get funded.
       The city-defined “Streetscape” area, originally built up around the mid-20th century, is basically west of 33rd Street along Colorado Avenue up to Manitou Springs city limits. In that area, most of the north side of the avenue is in the city while the south part is in the county.
       Also interested are Manitou, because of the proximity to the Urban Renewal Authority zone in what Manitou calls its “eastern corridor” (along the avenue between the Highway 24 interchange and its eastern city limits); and El Paso County Transportation, which had done its own study of the area's needs in 2005.
       A tentative cost-sharing plan a year ago suggested Colorado Springs fund 75 percent of the total expense, El Paso County 24 percent and Manitou 1 percent. These numbers are still just tentative. None of the three entities has budgeted any money for the effort as yet, although its staff representatives continue to compare notes on the matter, McNair explained.
       Known historically as “Adams Crossing,” the bridge that's earmarked for replacement is the one crossing Fountain Creek near Columbia Road, just east of the limit line between Manitou and Colorado Springs. The probability that it will need replacing in the near future became evident after the city took “a closer look at the needs in that area,” McNair said. One issue with the bridge is its width. It allows two lanes each way, but has no room for sidewalks.
       Also, the area's drainage infrastructure would need to be replaced or “completely rebuilt,” McNair said.
       One idea that Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Manitou Springs have pursued jointly in the past year is a grant through CDOT's new Maintenance Incentive Program (MIP). But this has been to no avail - at least so far - because of the way CDOT is initially defining the program, local officials believe.
       The MIP intent, at least on paper, is that local entities would take over maintenance of unneeded CDOT state highway segments - for example, Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street is the US 24 business route - in exchange for CDOT funding improvements that ensure such roads are up to urban standards. The conflict is in the definition of “urban standards.” While the city looks at No Man's Land and sees MIP fixing drainage problems and the lack of sidewalks, curb and gutter, the state only sees MIP preserving the current infrastructure.
       The agency's “draft procedural directive seems to rely on the net present value of CDOT's expected (rather than needed) maintenance expenditures on this road segment over the next 25 years,” reads a letter this fall to CDOT Regional Director Tim Harris from McNair, County Transportation Director John McCarty and Manitou Springs Deputy City Administrator Michael Leslie. In a follow-up interview, McNair elaborated that the state approach, at least at this point, is “based on how much CDOT can save, as oppposed to what we believe is needed.”
       Also being considered as a source for Streetscape/No Man's funding is a separate CDOT effort. This is the greenway - a spin-off from CDOT's Westside Highway 24 expansion-planning effort. Greenway concepts from CDOT consultants in '07 included relocating Fountain Creek and/or Colorado/Manitou Avenue to improve opportunities for flood control, open space and redevelopment in an area including Manitou. Although the highway expansion would only pay for greenway improvements that are transportation-related, CDOT's greenway consultants are researching other funding sources.
       While interested in such possibilities - local government staffers have been attending Greenway Advisory Committee meetings over the past year, and another is scheduled Feb. 4 - both Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs officials have expressed concerns about related tax-base losses. City Council member Jerry Heimlicher objected at a council meeting this fall to greenway design options that could eliminate all or part of the Red Rock shopping center to make room for a natural flood plain. And Kitty Clemens, Manitou's economic development director, said in a recent interview that “three of the four [greenway] scenarios wipe out our whole urban renewal zone with open space.”
       County Commissioner Sallie Clark, whose district includes both sides of the avenue, believes that the area's multi-jurisdictional situation is complicating remedial efforts. She proposes that the regional planning agency, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), take over the coordination effort.
       One place she sees a regional approach helping would be with MIP. She noted that the CDOT program was set up to spend $10 million a year on local needs, but so far has spent zero. “It seems ridiculous that the state has program money just sitting there [but isn't using it]” said Clark, who is also a PPACG board member. “The local community needs to be the driver on this.”

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