Avenue study still on track, despite legal, technical hurdles

A wide-angle view from inside the Garden of the Gods RV Resort looks east toward Colorado Avenue. At left a westbound vehicle drives up to Columbia Road on what engineers are calling a "slip ramp" on that part of the avenue (it was once a streetcar right of way). At right, on the other side of the resort's fence, is the Midland Trail. Farther right are the concrete walls of the avenue's bridge over Fountain Creek. The bridge was built in 1934. Its replacement will be a key part of a major public improvement project in that area. Based on decisions made in the ongoing Westside Avenue Action Plan - the study that will create the project design - the new bridge will be built just north of the current one. This will require realigning the trail access and obtaining some of the property next to it from the resort owners, according to the Westside Avenue Action Plan's project team.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Although slowed by technical issues and the legal complications of multiple-government involvement, the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) is moving forward, with available funding unchanged at more than $15 million and construction due to start in late 2015.
       In a recent update to the Avenue Task Force, WAAP lead consultant Steve Murray said his team is finalizing a design draft that he hopes can be submitted by December to key departments within the three participating government entities (Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Manitou Springs). “Once we get their comments, we can have a public meeting,” Murray said.
       WAAP is a study, started in 2012, to identify and plan major Colorado Avenue upgrades between about 32nd Street and Manitou's Highway 24 interchange - an area that was declared blighted several years ago and is sometimes known as “No Man's Land.”
       The WAAP project team consists mainly of engineers representing three local governments along with a contracted consultant (Felsburg Holt & Ullevig, for whom Murray works) and several subconsultants.
       The most recent public meeting was last April. Afterward, based on concepts citizens liked at the meeting, the WAAP team had anticipated moving into a preliminary design phase and holding another public meeting two or three months later. However, Murray told the Avenue Task Force that extra time was needed to formalize the transfer of the WAAP-area avenue right of way from the state to the county and to work through utilities issues (specifically, gathering data on existing connections in that area and negotiating a project-related cost-sharing plan with Colorado Springs Utilities).
       “The hardest things to solve are who pays for what,” Murray commented.
       The Avenue Task Force is an informal group of citizens and law enforcement officials that formed about two years ago to seek solutions to crime issues in the No Man's Land area. The group is looking forward to the avenue project's completion, hopeful that improvements on public properties will lead to those on private ones.
       Some key design aspects have been run past citizens at previous public meetings while others have not.
       Those that have gained a citizen consensus:
  • A new bridge over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road, built to handle a 100-year flood. It will be located just north of the existing span, which officials say will keep traffic from being impeded during construction. When the new bridge is in (scheduled to occur by late 2016), the old one, built in 1934, will be removed.
  • A shift of the avenue 10 feet or so to the north between the bridge and Ridge Road, in part to line the roadway up with the new bridge location. This will require buying some private property, particularly from the Garden of the Gods RV Resort at Columbia and Colorado.
  • A route for the Midland Trail, which currently has a gap between Ridge and Columbia Roads. The northward shift will create more space on the south side of the avenue, where the trail would go.
  • In the bridge design, making room for the trail to cross under the avenue.
  • Naming the bridge after Adams Crossing, which has been the historic reference for that location.
  • Changing the avenue from two lanes each way without turn lanes to one lane each way with a center lane. This will help underline that the avenue is not meant as a high-speed route and will also leave room for a sidewalk and amenities such as on-street parking in places, street lights, improved bus stops, bike lanes and/or landscaping.
           The following design concepts, toward which the study team is leaning (according to Murray), have not been presented yet at a public meeting:
  • Bike lanes on both sides of the road.
  • Motor-vehicle lanes that are 11 feet wide (city officials have previously said the average city lane is 12 feet wide).
  • Six-foot-wide sidewalks (this would leave room for streetlights and provide maneuverability for wheelchairs).
  • Undergrounding electrical lines.
  • Stoplights at Ridge and Colorado and at Columbia and Colorado.
  • T-intersection at Ridge/ Colorado (eliminating the short segment of Ridge between Colorado and Pikes Peak Avenue to make room for the stoplight at Colorado/Ridge).
           Project funding will mainly come from $12.5 million approved by voters in the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority renewal in 2012. Another $2.6 million is expected from the Colorado Department of Transpor-tation in handing over maintenance of the avenue west of 31st Street to the county.
           Grants totalling $1.3 million are being used on the WAAP study.

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