PPACG board OKs state plan on Express Inn

       The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board of directors voted Aug. 10 for a proposal that will essentially let the state borrow from itself as part of a strategy to buy the recently closed and fenced-off Express Inn.
       The plan by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is to obtain the five-acre property southeast of Highway 24 and Eighth Street now when its value is low, then raze its buildings and wait until a future time when a planned interchange is built at Eighth Street and Cimarron Street/Highway 24 and the land is needed for it, according to Dave Watt, a lead CDOT engineer.
       Board approval was needed because the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) doesn't have the estimated $1.5 million required at present. The vote allows CDOT to borrow that amount from $4.28 million that PPACG had previously designated to CDOT to buy right of way for a new Cimarron/I-25 interchange.
       While neither project has a timetable, the interstate interchange is expected to occur sooner than the one at Eighth. But Watt said the borrowing will not slow the Cimarron/I-25 effort, because if money is needed there CDOT can borrow from other state projects, with all its projects being fully funded in the end.
       The state will now begin a detailed effort to determine fair market value for the land. Once set, that amount will be the offered amount for purchase. The $1.5 million number is considered a safe estimate, he said, with the likelihood that the fair market value will prove to be somewhat less.
       Watt said he still doesn't know if People's Bank, which holds the paper on the Express Inn parcel, will even want to sell to the state. “There are other people I'm sure they're talking to,” he said. “But we felt it was worth pursuing.”
       CDOT will need to buy the property at some point because it's necessary to make room for a much wider highway footprint between I-25 and Eighth, based on the “preferred alternative” for a future, multi-year Highway 24 widening project between there and Ridge Road.
       An environmental assessment (EA) of that alternative (including the Eighth Street interchange) is still being finalized. Submission to the Federal Highway Administration will occur sometime after a public meeting on the EA that could be held this fall, Watt said.
       He had first informed the PPACG board of the Express Inn purchase plan at its July meeting, saying that he would be back in August with a formal request.
       The technical vote by the board was to approve an amendment to the current regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). All the PPACG board members voted in favor except Scott Hente.
       The 45-year-old Express Inn, which in recent years had become a hotel for homeless or nearly homeless people, had fallen into disrepair before being closed in May in the wake of a District Court decision that the entity buying the property had defaulted on payments to the bank.

Westside Pioneer article