2-lane Colorado Ave. through No Man’s Land?
In federal grant request, engineers see scaled-back roadway to make room for sidewalks, bike lanes

       Local governments are trying again to find outside money for “No Man's Land.”

With no bike lanes currently on West Colorado Avenue through "No Man's Land," a bicyclist uses an eastbound traffic lane this week. In the background is the Adams Crossing bridge, which would be replaced in the grant. Other work would include adding bike lanes and sidewalks within the current right of way, which would probably necessitate reducing the street from four lanes to two, traffic engineers say.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A $10.7 million grant request is being submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation for federal stimulus funds.
       The grant would help upgrade public amenities along West Colorado Avenue/Manitou Avenue between about 32nd Street and the Highway 24 overpass, but - as plans now stand - would eliminate two of the four traffic lanes to fit everything in.
       The No Man's Land nickname has been attached to that 1½-mile stretch, mainly because of neglect over the years from a patchwork of government entities (primarily Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, El Paso County and the State of Colorado) that control different parts of it. At the same time, as County Commissioner Sallie Clark writes in a letter of support for the grant request, that stretch of road is a “gateway” for the region.
       The application is set for submittal before an Aug. 23 deadline. The expected response date is November.
       If received, the money would combine with $4.3 million in local matching funds to pay for the replacement of the 1934-built Adams Crossing bridge (where the creek flows from the north to the south side of the creek by the Garden of the Gods Campground), as well as for improved storm sewers, underground utilities, sidewalks, curb and gutter, bus stops and bike lanes.
       Not included would be money to buy additional right of way. Nor do plans call for a bridge that's wider than the current one. That's why engineers believe the only way to fit in all the upgrades (mainly sidewalks and bike lanes) is to cut back the lanes from four to two, according to Kathleen Krager, a lead city traffic engineer on the project.
       “When you look at that area, a lot of things are right up against the street,” she said. “It would be a shame to plow that down for wider lanes. It's not serving as a high- speed commuter street. We can make it a slower speed and a little more pleasant for tourism.”
       Current plans also call for a center lane, usable from either direction, which would make left turns possible without impeding traffic flow, she said.
       Asked why bike lanes are needed, when the paved Midland Trail is slated for completion nearby, Krager pointed out that trails are basically intended for “recreational “ use, while “commuting bicyclists want to go the most direct way. Even when we put in a bike trail, chances are they will end up on the street.”
       Beyond that, she said, the city has a “complete streets” ordinance that requires the addition of bike lanes on street projects of any size.
       In any event, should the grant be awarded, there will be neighborhood meetings where such matters can be discussed, Krager said.
       Rubberized asphalt, which has proven to be reliable and relatively quiet on other streets where it's been tried in the city (according to City Street Division Manager Saleem Khattak), would be the surface used for the street overlay, plans show.
       Colorado Springs is preparing the grant, with matching-fund support from eight other entities. The rounded-off breakdown is as follows:
  • Colorado Springs ($500,000).
  • Colorado Springs Utilities ($532,800).
  • El Paso County ($500,000).
  • Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) ($500,000).
  • Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA), $350,000.
  • Manitou Springs ($1.6 million, mostly from funds already dedicated to its “Phase 5B” plan to improve its east-end area).
  • Manitou Springs Urban Renewal, $25,000.
  • Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), $50,000.
  • Mountain Metro Transit, $200,000.
           The matching funds total is well above the 20 percent minimum required for the federal grant. Krager said that's by design, because the more that's presented in matching funds, the better the chance of obtaining an award.
           “It could be given out as a partial grant,” Krager also noted. “If it is, we will access what can be done with the given funding.”
           The official name of the federal grant is Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), which has about $700 million in all, nationwide, Krager said. “Competition [for grants] will be very stiff, but we believe we have a good application,” Krager said.
           Because this is TIGER's second year, the 2010 program is called TIGER II, the TIGER website states. The program is “authorized and implemented pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” the website also states. This act created what's also called the stimulus package, to which the federal government has allocated $862 billion in all.
           The TIGER website additionally states that the selection criteria for the grant “include contributing to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and improving the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections.”
           For the past five years, both Colorado Springs and El Paso County have researched ways to provide at least basic improvements to No Man's Land. The most recent previous request (by Colorado Springs, Manitou and the county) was to CDOT last year, for essentially the same items that are in the TIGER II application. That request was denied.

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