4 Westside projects on ‘A list’ for proposed RTA

       Four of seven Westside transportation projects have made the “A list” for the proposed Rural Transportation Authority (RTA)
       The RTA, which appears certain now to go before El Paso County voters in the Nov. 2 general election, will ask for a new 1- cent sales tax to cover the $446.45 million cost of 75 new projects as well as maintenance and transit expenses over a 10-year span.
       Since the RTA's announcement of needed projects last winter, a broad-based coalition led by the volunteer Pikes Peak Transportation Coalition has sorted the list into A, B and C categories and (last week) added one A-list project each for Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls.
       The rationale for the sales tax is that local governments don't have enough money from current revenues to keep up with an increasingly worsening transportation problem. “Currently, we're only meeting 10 percent of the expected needs,” said Dan Stuart, Coalition chairman. “That's why this is so critical to the community, because literally things are falling apart and we don't have the money to address them.”
       The anticipated expenditures are broken out as $134 million in new work, $198 million for street resurfacing/curb and gutter and $112 million for transit (bus) improvements over a 10-year span.
       There are 47 projects on the A list, 17 on the B and 11 on the C. The way the funding works, no B projects will be done until all the A's are done, and no C's until all the B's are done, according to Craig Blewitt, Colorado Springs transportation planning manager. But if the economy picks up and tax proceeds are higher than anticipated, the B and C projects could get done quicker, Stuart said.
       The four Westside A-listers appear below, with summary information based on a Westside Pioneer interview with Blewitt:
       · Widen Fillmore to six lanes from Centennial to I-25 ($4.8 million). This would make it easier for drivers on side streets to access this steep section of Fillmore. The cost would also include right-of-way acquisition and slope stabilization.
        · Upgrade the Chestnut Street/ Garden of the Gods Road intersection ($375,000). This is related to the Rusina Road extension in 2001 that allowed traffic from the Rockrimmon area to access Garden of the Gods Road. Because of this additional traffic, the intersection needs upgrading in conjunction with that traffic increase.
       · Replace the 25th Street bridge over Fountain Creek ($350,000). Typi-cally, bridges are not expected to last much over 50 years. This two-lane bridge was built in 1915. It scored 48 out of 100 on an efficiency rating scale on which a score under 50 means replacement is necessary.
       · 30th Street corridor safety improvements. Left turn at the Navigators access from 30th Street, $60,000. Some road widening would be needed to make space. This is believed to be a dangerous situation without a turn lane.
        Westside projects on the B list are:
       · Uintah Street safety improvements. Expand road cut on the north side of Uintah to accommodate a sidewalk and a bike lane between Mesa Road and Cooper Street, $900,000. The work would also require a retaining wall to keep mud flows off the sidewalk and street.
       · Upgrade the Forge Road/ Garden of the Gods Road intersection ($430,000). Drivers use a driveway to come out of the shopping area on the east side of the signalized intersection. Overall, these would be “safety and operational” upgrades, Blewitt said.
       The Westside project on the C list is:
       · Centennial Boulevard design and construction ($11.55 million). Centennial is planned as a four-lane connection south from its current stopping point at Fillmore to the Fontanero/I-25 intersection. In the northern area of the 2 ½-mile extension, a large residential development is under construction and an office complex has been proposed. The RTA would be covering costs along the southern portion.
       The most recent additions to the A list are in Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls, following requests from those towns' respective elected bodies. Both would like tax proceeds to help upgrade their main business routes. The stated needs are $2.2 million for Manitou Springs and $250,000; the amounts are close to what their residents would be expected to pay in taxes over the next 10 years, Blewitt said.
       An intergovernmental agreement (IGA) on the RTA between Colorado Springs City Council and El Paso County Commission- ers had previously been hammered out; it is being revised as a result of adding Manitou and Green Mountain Falls at a joint meeting of the council and commissioners July 9, Blewitt said.
       Stuart, formerly Manitou Springs mayor and a state transportation leader, and others on the coalition have been going out into the community to meet with interested groups.
       “It's been very positive,” he said. “This is one of those issues that crosses party lines. Everyone is frustrated about transportation issues in the county, and most people realize traffic safety is critical to them individually as well as to the economic heart of the community.” He described the joint action by Colorado Springs and El Paso County elected bodies as “historic… They've recognized that the public wants these things solved.”
       The Coalition meets twice a month. The meetings are open to the public at the United Way building, 518 N. Nevada Ave., Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m.
       The ballot issue will list all the proposed projects. That way, voters will know what they are getting with the money.
       Other than the Manitou and Green Mountain Falls projects, those on the list came out of meetings of the Colorado Springs Citizens Transportation Advisory Board and the county's Highway Advisory Com-mission.
        Another nuance of the issue is that after 10 years, the sales tax rate would drop from 1 cent to .45 cent, as a permanent tax to cover ongoing maintenance needs.
       The goal is to have the ballot wording finalized by early September, Blewitt said.
        If the ballot issue passes, residents of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and unincorporated parts of El Paso County will pay the 1-cent sales tax.
       Because of that, in the election, only residents within those areas will have the item on their ballots, Stuart said.

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