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Despite complications, No Man’s Land project leaders remain confident

A graphic shows the basic extent of the work area (in yellow) along Colorado/ Manitou Avenue and the government jurisdictions participating in the Westside Avenue Action Plan.
Courtesy of Westside Avenue Action Plan
       Amid growing concerns about project cost, scope and time, a public meeting on future “No Man's Land” civic upgrades - previously advertised for July 1 - was postponed.
       A new meeting date has not been set, but it could occur by fall, according to Steve Murray, lead consultant in the project study known as the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP). He said in an interview that the participants in the multijurisdictional effort are still seeking consensus on key points. “We were afraid if we went ahead with July 1 there would be more questions than answers,” he said.
       Nevertheless, he offered assurances that the project itself is not in jeopardy. “It's too important,” he said, for the government entities involved (El Paso County, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs), and expressed certainty that despite the project's complications it will be completed in a quality manner that will greatly benefit the Westside and the city as a whole.
       The WAAP study will lead to a design for improvements in a 1.3-mile segment of Colorado Avenue, from 31st Street to Manitou's Highway 24 interchange. Prominent plan aspects are a new Colorado Avenue bridge over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road, utility and other service upgrades (including the undergrounding of storm sewers and electric lines), a revised street layout that (unlike today) makes room for bike lanes and sidewalks, a realigned/ completed Midland Trail, improvements at the interchange and revamped intersections adding stoplights at Columbia and at Ridge Road.
       The overall work had initially been priced in the realm of $15 million to $16 million, but closer engineering scrutiny has revealed nettlesome issues with such matters as storm drainage, creek proximity, ancient utilities, rights of way and handicapped accessibility. Brackin recently told the board of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) he now sees numbers in the $20 million to $25 million range.
       The RTA, through a voter-approved tax for specific transportation projects, has budgeted about $12 million for the No Man's Land work. Other funding, about $3 million, is coming from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
       Brackin told the RTA board the project will require “over six miles of utility impacts, not including aged utilities that need to be upgraded or services to businesses or residents.” That cost has been pegged at $7 million. An agreement is being negotiated with Colorado Springs Utilities as to how much of that the city- owned enterprise will pay.
       Scope issues relate to the extent of work that should take place. Since the study began, some improvements have been identified outside the original project area; also, final decisions have not been made about “optional elements” involving aesthetics, landscaping and trail work. One such element is a request from Manitou to have street lights that are different from those on the Colorado Springs side.
       With the above issues, the envisioned start of work has been moved to early 2016. On top of that, Brackin advised that there is uncertainty as to how much time Utilities can devote to the project; this could stretch the project time frame up to three years. That scenario contrasts with the preliminary schedule presented at the last public meeting in April 2014, that work would last from September 2015 to December 2016.
       Anyone seeking more information can go to westsideavenueplan.com, or contact project spokesperson Lisa Bachman at lisa@bachmanpr.com.

Westside Pioneer article