Public thoughts wanted on transportation, energy

       Two public meetings on regional subjects - both of which will affect the Westside - will be held Oct. 2 and 3.
       One will address future transportation modes as the area grows; the other how Colorado Springs Utilities' should deal with increasing customer electrical usage. Both involve efforts to gather citizen input, and both are nearing the ends of those activities.
       Both are also alike in that their results to date have been somewhat surprising. Moving Forward, organized through the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), is drawing the most support for a transportation spending strategy that is pretty much evenly divided between roads and other types of transportation - rather than mostly for roads. Meanwhile, the majority participating in the Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP) so far has favored more alternative sources for electrical energy.
       Here's what each one is about:
       Moving Forward - The meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 2 at the First Presbyterian Church's Weber Street Center, 105 N. Weber St. People can attend either of two sessions: 1 to 4 p.m. or 6 to 9 p.m. Preregistration is requested by calling 471-7080 x127.
       The meeting format will be unusual. Called a “regional transportation roundtable,” it will let participants act like government planners, making decisions with limited resources. A PPACG press release states that it “is developing Moving Forward, the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, which offers a vision for transportation [in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area] over the next 20 to 30 years… The roundtable will provide an interactive opportunity for participants to build roadways, fix interchanges, connect trails and bike routes, and enhance public transportation - all within a given budget.”
       Mary Frye, a PPACG transportation planner who has been leading Moving Forward, revealed at the September PPACG board meeting results from close to 1,300 people who have provided responses at a Moving Forward booth at 13 summer festivals and farmers' markets. Going in, the expectation had been that people would favor more and better roads, but this was only the case at a Black Forest Community Club Festival, Frye said. Another finding was that of those who wanted roads, only 12 percent wanted new or widened ones to be built, while 65 percent stressed maintenance. But without road expansions, congestion will get worse, PPACG transportation planner Craig Casper said.
       No Westside summer events were used in the survey, Frye said.
       To get public input, PPACG typically announc-es a meeting date, then hopes people will show up. But the regional agency decided to try more outreach this time, according to Casperr.
       When it was suggested to Frye that a potentially narrow cross-section might be found at festivals and farmers' markets, she replied that part of the goal was to attract younger respondents. “It is their future,” she said. “They'll be paying the bills.”
       The starting premise for the 2035 plan is that the region (El Paso, Teller and Park counties) is expected to grow by 65 percent between now and then, reaching a population of close to 1 million people.
       For more information, or to simply fill out a transportation survey without attending the meeting, go to the website (ppacg.org) or call PPACG at 471-7080.
       EIRP - The meeting will be Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the Leon Young Service Center, 1521 Hancock Expressway, from 6 to 8 p.m. No preregistration is necessary.
       The EIRP is an update of the current plan, approved in 2004, which guides Utilities on energy policies. A key reason for the update is an unanticipated increase in citywide electricity usage, Utilities officials have explained.
       Other impacts include higher-than-anticipated costs for energy from wind, increasing costs of customer bills, the initiation of Amendment 37 (a state law which requires that utilities providers use at least 10 percent renewable energy by 2015), and increasing reliance on gas-fired generation; and gas market volatility.
       At the meeting, Utilities' EIRP project team will review 7 “portfolios” (multifaceted strategies) from an original 40 that were proposed to address the electrical-service situation. Attendees will be welcome to comment on these portfolios.
       Originally, the EIRP public effort had been intended to wrap up last spring. However, “there have been considerable legislative and industrial changes since the last public meeting in April,” a Utilities press release states. “Staff has reviewed earlier assumpions and added a more rigorous analytical process, while also reviewing public comments and obtaining information and feedback from the EIRP advisory group.”
       Additional EIRP activities include a Utilities Board (City Council) update Sept. 19 and a meeting of the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee Oct. 3.
       Utilities has received indications from customers that they want more renewable energy used. In a phone survey last December, 82.5 percent said Colorado Springs Utilities should include renewable energy sources in its supply portfolio even if they cost more than other supply options. (This total was up from 64.9 percent in 2003.)
       For more information on the EIRP process, call Gail Conners at 668-8012 or e-mail gconners@csu.org.

Westside Pioneer/press release