WAAP: Budget increased, key right of way obtained, but bridge opening delayed
A major project involving El Paso County, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, WAAP is rebuilding Colorado/Manitou Avenue for about a mile and a half west of 31st Street.
The new bridge is replacing an 84-year-old span over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road. A new opening-date estimate had not been announced as of early May. County Project Engineer Dennis Barron would only commit to “mid to late summer,” adding that “there are so many variables and unknowns that long- range predictions come back to bite us if they don't work out as planned.”
Contractor Wildcat Construction started work on the new bridge last September after removing the north half of the old one.
The mid-May prediction changed in early April. “The bridge and related construction have not progressed as quickly as originally anticipated,” Barron summarized then, without going into detail.
For now, avenue motorists continue to use the south half of the old bridge. Work on the new span occurs where the north half used to be.
Despite the bridge delay, the overall project is still expected to be “substantially complete” by the end of this year, Barron said.
In other WAAP traffic impacts, Pikes Peak Avenue remains closed at Ridge Road through most of May, to allow the installation of storm drains, utililties and communication lines, Barron said, and other slowdowns will continue in the coming months as the underground work moves east toward 31st Street.
The above-noted obstacle-removal news falls into two categories:
Barron summarized the money necessity as follows:
- Surprises underground when the contractor dug for stormwater and utility lines. An example was hundreds of tires found along a segment of Fountain Creek. They had evidently been put there years ago to bolster its banks. The tires have since been removed and the banks refortified to modern specifications.
- Design changes that were identified as the work moved forward (including a change in the Adams Crossing bridge alignment and the need for a water quality pond).
- Complications with property purchase/easement acquisitions (about 100 in all are needed).
- Having to demolish more buildings than anticipated (increased to five in all).
- The assignment now of dollar amounts to certain project aspects (such as artistic elements on retaining walls) that “we knew we wanted to do but didn't have costed.”
Asked by an RTA board member about the possibility of future cost increases, Barron replied, “I can't guarantee that we won't ask for more. We have one year left on the project. But this is what we need now.”
According to County Engineer Jennifer Irvine, the county has made no secret about WAAP's money concerns, having advised the RTA in late 2016 “that the cost could increase and that if additional funds are required they would be requested at that time.”
In the RV Resort deal, the WAAP governments are buying a half-acre of land and four permanent easements from the 13-acre Garden of the Gods RV Resort.
Owned by the national RVC Outdoor Destinations company (doing business as GOG RV, LLC), the resort is at the northwest corner of Colorado Avenue and Columbia Road, just north of Fountain Creek.
The purchase gives WAAP room to work on the bridge. Also, project-related repairs and improvements are slated in the resort itself, and a new right-turn-only exit from the north side of the resort onto El Paso Boulevard will be built.
The bridge will cross Fountain Creek about 50 feet north of the old span when it opens to traffic, which would otherwise put it on resort property. Temporary easements have allowed the work thus far.
Expressing support for the deal in a separate interview was Scott McConnaughey, general manager of the Garden of the Gods RV Resort (who noted he was not involved in the negotiations). Although the business has suffered from project-related traffic impacts and the temporary loss of six RV spaces, the end result will be positive, he believes. As outlined in Irvine's report to the RTA board, the lost spaces will be restored (there are 154 camping sites in all), electric lines will be relocated/upgraded as needed and the new El Paso exit will include the widening of an interior roadway.
Adjacent to the resort property - and with the help of one of the easements - Columbia Road will be widened to allow an extra lane between Pikes Peak Avenue and Colorado.
The El Paso exit became necessary because (for safety reasons) the Columbia/ Colorado redesign prohibits vehicles from exiting the RV park at that point except during an emergency.
Westside Pioneer article