City cuts stall Hwy 24 safety project

       A $224,000 upgrade at Highway 24 and 21st Street, which was on the verge of being contracted, has been been put on hold indefinitely.
       City Engineer Cam McNair said he removed the safety-improvement item from the agenda of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) Nov. 12 because city budget cutbacks for the year 2010 will eliminate his department's 20-member roadway engineering team which oversees all RTA capital improvement projects.
       “We cannot move forward with new contracts since we do not know if we will have resources to manage the work,” McNair said. “In fact, we are beginning to plan for suspending work on other active projects (except for Woodmen-Academy which is mostly federally funded).”
       In what he termed a “stop-gap measure,” McNair had asked the RTA board to consider using RTA funds next year to pay the $1.7 million in salaries for the roadway engineering team. But he was unable to gain a consensus of the board on his contention that the plan would be OK within RTA rules because the team's positions would be continuing, not new. (The rules say that RTA member governments “shall not add any permanent/regular employees to their staff paid from PPRTA funds.”)
       Without that approval, McNair explained in a report to the board that there would be $17 million worth of “active project” suspensions as well as “significant time delays to reconstruct PM [project management] staff in another form or to wait for the city budget to rebound… significantly higher management costs [and] a loss of public confidence in the PPRTA.”
       Project manager duties include such areas as budgets and schedules, public communications, utilities relocations, coordination with other governments (as needed), legal matters, permit approvals, rights of way and ensuring that work meets specifications, according to McNair's report.
       The Highway 24/21st Street improvements had been designed in response to the 2006 city “dangerous intersections” list, which showed 21st and Highway 24 as the second worst in the city. Rear-end accidents were a particular problem, according to police statistics.
       Work was/is to include modifications to the northbound 21st Street right-turn lane from 21st onto 24 (its approach would become less of a wide curve), left-turn lanes to improve visibility and the addition of a second northbound lane (there's one now) across the highway and up to the bridge over Fountain Creek.
       Besides 24/21st, McNair's report listed seven other capital projects that he plans to suspend (all in parts of town other than the Westside). The total value of those eight projects is just over $17 million, according to the report.

Westside Pioneer article