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Midland Trail ‘alternate route’ planned in 21st Street project; no congestion relief for drivers

       By the end of the year, 21st Street won't be less congested for motorized traffic between Highway 24 and Colorado Avenue, but at least the ride will be smoother… and, for nonmotorized users, more user-friendly.
       The smooth road surface will result from a 2C paving project, scheduled in the fall. Before that, starting in mid-March, there will be successive upgrade projects by Colorado Springs Utilities and the City of Colorado Springs that will likely affect traffic at times until mid-September, according to information from sources for both entities.

A view north on 21st Street from the Angler's Covey driveway shows the 21st Street bridge (protected by guardrails). Projects by Colorado Springs Utilities and City Engineering this year will upgrade the bridge, sidewalks, drainage and road surface between Highway 24 and Colorado Avenue; also planned is an eight-foot-wide path for pedestrians and bicycles along this side of the roadway, including the bridge.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The nonmotorized benefit will result from the city portion of the project, which will include construction of an eight-foot-wide concrete “path,” as it's being called. It will go to Highway 24 from the current 21st Street terminus of the off-road Midland Trail.
       “Trail users will cross 21st Street at the [highway] signal and continue on a multi-use path over to Naegle Road,” project manager Ryan Phipps of Colorado Springs Engineering outlined in an e-mail.
       The trail segment on the 21st Street bridge over Fountain Creek will use eight feet of width now dedicated to cars, but he said they should still have enough room. No sidewalk is there now. The one on the bridge's west side is about half that width.

A view south on 21st Street from Cucharras shows a typical back-up between Colorado Avenue and Highway 24. The off-road terminus of the Midland Trail is at far left in background.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Along Naegele, trail users will “share the road” west to 25th, Phipps said, where the off-road Midland Trail resumes westerly, following the creek.
       The current Midland Trail route from 21st Street, established in 2011, uses signage to direct people along Cucharras Street to 25th. A city traffic engineer spoke to the Old Colorado City Special Improvement Main-tenance District in 2015 about designating Cucharras as a “bicycle boulevard,” but Phipps said he had not heard of that. He said it's his understanding that cyclists don't like using Cucharras, and the new path will serve as an “alternate route.”
       He does not know how many bicyclists currently use 21st (or Cucharras). However, “there is strong evidence of pedestrian traffic along the sides of 21st Street where no sidewalk exists,” Phipps elaborated. “While concrete crews are on site, it makes sense to provide the appropriate facilities for pedestrians.”
       Asked why the project this year will not include traffic-flow improvements for motorists, Phipps said that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is considering a future lengthening of southbound 21st Street's right turn onto westbound Highway 24.
       However, short of a grade-separated interchange at the highway and 21st - a long-range CDOT plan which lacks funding and current political will - “there is only so much that can be done between Colorado Avenue and Highway 24 to improve congestion,” he summarized.

A city sign faces westbound traffic on the current Midland Trail route, which uses Cucharras between 21st and 25th streets.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The new multi-use path is being funded with Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority bicycle money, Phipps said. The estimated cost is $85,000.
       The combined expenditure for this year's 21st Street work by all the government entities will be about $1 million, according to Natalie Eckhart of Utilities.
       A press release from Eckhart provides the following timetable/summations for all the 21st Street work:
  • Mid-March to mid-June - Utilities crews will replace water mains along 21st.
  • Mid-June to September - City contractors will pour new or replacement curb, gutter and sidewalk between Cimarron and Colorado and install rip-rap around the bridge abutments and piers (plus drainage improvements, Phipps said).
           The city will also do bridge maintenance. These are “the little things you don't see,” said Alex Pellegrino of AECOM, a city engineering consultant, which will “preserve its service life.”
  • September to October - 2C paving by a city contractor. The portion over the bridge will be given a “new waterproof membrane,” the website states.
           The city and Utilities chose not to hold public meetings to help shape project plans. But before work starts, people will be notified through a “project website, press releases, door hangers and construction coordination with OWN [the Organization of Westside Neighbors],” Phipps outlined in an e-mail.
           The website is coloradosprings.gov/21stbridge. Other information is available from Utilities at 668-5527 or the city at 385-5069.

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