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No Man's Land update: Utility relocations this winter to kick off major 2-year project

A rendering from the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) project team looks southwest at the plan-envisioned intersection of Colorado Avenue and Columbia Road. This rendering can be compared with the one below, showing the existing conditions at Colorado/Columbia, drawn from the same vantage point. Visible changes here include intersection stoplights; a revised access to the Garden of the Gods RV Resort (far right); a new avenue bridge over Fountain Creek; a trail access where a hotel was; continuous sidewalks on both sides; and a traffic configuration with two lanes, a middle lane and bike lanes. The small park by the bridge, as well as the bridge itself, will be named "Adams Crossing," in deference to what the intersection was historically known as.
Courtesy of WAAP project team
El Paso County Engineer Jennifer Irvine would like it known that the major, long-planned project for the West Colorado Avenue corridor some call “no man's land” remains on track and is expected to start this winter with utility relocations.
       She said a process has begun to hire a construction manager to oversee the multi-faceted, 1.3-mile endeavor between 31st and Manitou's Highway 24 interchange. (Note that this work is separate from a paving, sidewalk and drainage project by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) around that interchange, starting in the latter part of September.)
       When hired, probably in October, the construction manager will coordinate with the county on selecting the actual project contractor (planned to happen by late November). The manager will then oversee the contractor's efforts as the project
A rendering from the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) project team looks southwest at the existing conditions at Colorado Avenue and Columbia Road. This rendering can be compared with the one above, depicting the plan-envisioned changes from the same vantage point. Because the new avenue bridge will be built north of the old one, the current road island at lower left will be eliminated. This new alignment will also allow the old bridge to stay open while its replacement is built, planners have said.
Courtesy of WAAP project team
unfolds, explained Irvine, who replaced Andre Brackin after he retired last spring.
       This "oversight" approach is similar, she said in an interview, to how Wilson & Co. has assisted the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in quality assurance during the I-25 interchange projects at Fillmore and Cimarron.
       The county is the lead player in the No Man's Land project, which also involves Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities and Manitou Springs.
       At present, property acquisitions - most of them minor and many just temporary easements - are continuing along the affected part of the avenue and the final design is “not quite at 100 percent,” Irvine said.
       In line with this view is the county's project manager, Dennis Barron. “We could conceivably mobilize by the end of the year,” he said at an early-September
Dennis Barron, the project manager for El Paso County, stands in front of a Westside Avenue Action Plan map while speaking during a project presentation at the Organization of Westside Neighbors board meeting in early September.
Westside Pioneer photo
meeting of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), saying that the main emphasis will be at the Manitou end. But he also noted, “there's a lot that's not finalized, and a lot of work that's being done by others.”
       The project cost and schedule - roughly a two-year span is predicted - are also not yet finalized, but should tighten up once a contractor is on board, Irvine explained.
       With the bulk of the funding coming from $12.5 million approved by voters from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA), the available budget is just over $16 million, but project engineers have previously predicted that it will need to be higher. Speaking at the same OWN meeting, County Commissioner Sallie Clark put the latest estimates at around $20 million, but added that the RTA - which is reporting higher than previously estimated revenues from its capital sales tax - could be asked to make up the difference.
       The final design stage follows the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) study, which started in 2012 and included several public meetings between 2012 and '14. Clark recalled that her efforts to get a project going (in conjunction with Marcy Morrison of Manitou Springs) date back another decade.
       The project area has earned the “no man's land” nickname, largely because of neglect in past years by its multiple government jurisdictions (the county and the two cities, plus CDOT), along with minimal private redevelopment over many decades. At the recent OWN meeting, WAAP design consultant Steve Murray observed that the work will be replacing “nearly 100-year-old infrastructure,” with the heaviest concentration occurring between Columbia and Ridge roads.
       The thinking is that the improvements will revitalize the mostly commercial segment of road, which is roughly halfway between the historic districts of Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.
       Major changes will include:
       · Underground utilities and storm drains (electric lines and stormwater runoff are aboveground now).
       · A new bridge over Fountain Creek at Columbia.
       · Stoplights at Columbia and at Ridge.
       · Ridge Road closed off between Colorado and Pikes Peak avenues.
       · A trail or bike “plaza” in the space that's available as a result of that small one-block closure.
       · A rerouted (and completed) Midland Trail, including an underpass of Colorado Avenue at Columbia Road.
       · Continuous sidewalks on either side of the avenue.
       · A thousand feet of major creek improvements (near the bridge).
       · A narrowing from the current four lanes with no turn lanes to two lanes with a middle lane.
       The latter issue was discussed at some length during the public meetings, which were particularly focused on “stakeholders” (people who lived, worked or owned businesses in that area). “Stakeholders preferred the 3-lane option,” states the project website, westsideavenueplan.com, “because it better regulates vehicle speeds, improves traffic safety with the addition of a dedicated left turn lane (designed to reduce accidents primarily caused by cars stopping to make left turns..., safely accommodates pedestrians and bicycle traffic and provides room for amenities stakeholders identified as important considerations reflecting the community values they identified.”
       Another public meeting will be held at some point after the contractor is hired, Irvine said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 9/11/16; Projects: No Man's Land)

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