Open house to recap plans for avenue upgrade so far

       A public open house Wednesday, March 20 will provide an update of the progress to date for the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP).

The intersection of Colorado Avenue and Ridge Road, complicated by the close proximity of Pikes Peak Avenue (note stop sign at right) poses a challenge for consultants and city staff who hope to redesign it for better traffic flow as part of a "bridge to Ridge" avenue segment.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The location will be the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St., from 5 to 7 p.m.
       Started last summer, the plan represents an effort by Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Manitou Springs to upgrade the infrastructure along Colorado/Manitou Avenue from 31st Street to the Highway 24 interchange - a segment sometimes known as “No Man's Land.”
       A press release elaborates: “The open house will include a presentation at 6 p.m. to review the study process, explain the recommended alternative and next steps for transportation improvements to the 1½- mile segment.”
       There will also be displays, including graphics of what improvements could look like and a blow-up of the entire segment on one wall of the center's Hughes Hall, according to Steve Murray, manager of the plan's consultant group.
       The plan was funded last year with a $300,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Through interviews and public meetings, consultants have worked with government staffers and citizens to identify and prioritize needed/ desired avenue improvements.
       The main plan decision to date, which will be shared at the March 20 meeting, is a roadway design between 32nd Street and Beckers Lane to change the current configuration of four lanes/no turn lanes to two lanes/center turn lane. A Jan. 17 public “stakeholders” meeting - geared for people who live, work or own property in that area - resulted in broad support for that proposal. The thinking is that it would be safer, require less right of way purchase and leave room for amenities such as sidewalks, streetlights, bus stops, bicycles and/or landscaping.
       The initial study phase (funded by a $300,000 CDOT grant) is coming to an end this spring. However, local officials, pointing toward 2015 when designated Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) construction funds will become available, have worked out a strategy to keep the consultant team together with additional CDOT planning money. This would include an “advance” on a $2.6 million sum that CDOT has previously agreed to pay local entities to take over maintenance of the avenue between 31st and the highway interchange, explained County Engineer Andre Brackin.
       If all goes smoothly, construction could start as early as mid-2014, but Brackin made clear that there are “all kinds of issues out there,” including the likely need to buy pieces of right of way from numerous property owners, which could push the start of work into 2015.
       For now, looking past the upcoming open house, Murray said the main challenge for the plan team will be to redesign a roadway section they've nicknamed “bridge to ridge.” That's the part that runs from Columbia Road - where the avenue crosses Fountain Creek on a bridge that's to be replaced with the RTA work - east to Ridge Road. The new layout may even require some road realignment, he pointed out, with added complications being the partly hilly terrain, the proximity of Pikes Peak Avenue and Fountain Creek and some uncertainty about the Midland Trail (if it should stay at grade or go under the bridge).

Westside Pioneer article