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Property acquisitions go hand-in-hand with initial WAAP work

       With property acquisitions - nearly all of them partial or temporary - still being finalized, the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) project is focusing mainly on the public right of way through spring.
       This strategy was made clear at the WAAP open house in February, which featured comments by the project managers - Zane Stultz from the contractor, Wildcat Construction; and Dennis Barron from El Paso County. The county is coordinating the $30.9 million project with the cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, as well as Colorado Springs Utilities.
       “We're going to be shuffling activities around,” Barron said during the presentation portion of the two-hour open house at the Colorado Springs Shrine Club. “We're going to work where we can.”
       Stultz advised that, at least at the outset, motorists should look for closures on the north side of the avenue, with traffic reduced in project areas to one lane each way on the south side. Occasionally, he cautioned, there may only be one lane available, and flaggers will control that flow.
       The overall project area is a 1.5-mile stretch of Colorado/Manitou Avenue, from west of 31st Street to Manitou's Highway 24 interchange, which has worn the “no man's land” nickname - in large part due to civic neglect - for a number of years. The work is expected to last through the end of 2018.

An early part of the Westside Avenue Action Plan project by the contractor, Wildcat Construction, has been tree removal along the north side of Colorado Avenue, just east of Ridge Road.
Westside Pioneer photo

       WAAP work started in December with the early work focusing on locating utility lines and removing trees, as needed.
       TRS, a project subcontractor, is leading the property acquisition efforts, which started months ago and are scheduled to continue into 2018. Brad Rodenberg of TRS told the Westside Pioneer that the avenue project area has 110 adjacent property owners. To rebuild the road as designed, property in some form is needed from 86 of them.
       According to Rodenberg, only one of these transactions has been finalized at this point: the former Sunflower Motel property. It's at Adams Crossing - the historic name for an avenue location that once included railroad and streetcar lines. The crossing still has its traffic bridge over Fountain Creek, and also nowadays has Columbia Road, Midland Trail and the access to the Garden of the Gods RV Resort.
       The Sunflower property will allow the Midland Trail, which currently has a gap between Ridge and Columbia roads, to be linked up. One other complete property is targeted for acquisition: a half-acre parcel between the creek and the avenue just east of the Manitou welcome sign, Rodenberg said.

Dennis Barron, the Westside Avenue Action Plan project manager for El Paso County, stands in front of a WAAP map while speaking at a neighborhood meeting in 2016.
Westside Pioneer photo

       He identified the other property needs (and numbers) as:
       - Partial acquisition of right of way (9).
       - Permanent easements (29). “Permanent easements are generally to accommodate sidewalk, utilities or drainage improvements,” Rodenberg clarified.
       - Temporary easements (46). “These are generally to provide additional working room when constructing sidewalks, or to provide additional workspace to match private driveways with the reconstructed road,” he said.
       Interviewed in late February, Rodenberg said that an early right of way focus is on the Manitou Springs section of the project, where “the city is in negotiations with numerous property owners.”
       He also explained that the project design is still being “fine-tuned [which] affects how the easements are legally described. When the easements are fit to the final design, we begin the right of way process in earnest.”
       The permanent easements are chiefly for utility undergrounding and replacement of sidewalks. The temporary easements “expire upon completion of construction [and] provide additional workspace to construct said utilities and sidewalks and to transition private driveways with the public street,” Rodenberg said.
       He predicted that “by the end of May, we will have finalized the right of way/easement acquisition process with at least half of the property owners within the project limits.”
       County Engineer Jennifer Irvine noted that on most projects, property acquisitions occur before the work starts. However, she expressed confidence that the contractor could still stay on schedule, and asserted that project costs would have risen considerably higher if the county had waited any longer to hire a contractor.
       Stultz emphasized the importance of working out the needed land deals, pledging that his team “will be on a first-name basis with all the property owners in the project area… If you [property owners] haven't been contacted by our acquisition team, you will be.”
       The open house also provided a rough timeline and phasing plan for construction of the new traffic bridge, which is to be named after Adams Crossing. Stultz said that construction has to wait for the federal Corps of Engineers to finish analyzing the water-flow impacts of relocating 1,000 feet of Fountain Creek a short distance to the north just west of the crossing. The Corps' OK is not expected sooner than August, he said.
       The creek relocation is needed because otherwise the Midland Trail would be in an overly narrow space, just south of the creek and just north of the avenue, Murray has previously explained. At the western end of the 1,000-foot stretch, a bridge (also part of WAAP) will take the trail to the north side of the creek.
       Other work is to include storm sewers, underground electric lines, stoplights at Columbia and Ridge, a two-lane/center lane/bike lanes traffic configuration, utility replacements, streetlights and (in places where they're missing now) sidewalks.

Westside Pioneer article