Streetcars not coming up the avenue anytime soon
For close to a decade, the goal of the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation has been to bring back the streetcar lines that until 1932 ran up West
Colorado Avenue between the downtown and Manitou Springs.
But the volunteer organization's trolley dreams, for now at least, are turning in another direction. At the foundation's encouragement, Mountain Metropolitan Transit has obtained a federal grant that will hire a company to do a feasibility study for a streetcar route through the downtown and possibly also to Colorado College, UCCS and Fort Carson. A study of West Colorado Avenue is not part of the study scope, according to Bill Bottini of Mountain Metro.
The Railway Found-ation, whose volunteers refurbish and operate working streetcars at the original Rock Island roundhouse facility at 2333 Steel Drive (east of I-25 and south of Fillmore Street), had once anticipated having the Colorado Avenue line in operation by now. Dave Lippincott, a foundation leader (and former owner of the Westside's Surplus City), listed several factors that have played into the group's change in plans.
One of these was a new Union Pacific (UP) railroad safety rule. Previously, UP and the foundation had an “agreement in principle” that would have let trolleys roll along unused UP track east of I-25 between the roundhouse and Colorado Avenue. But that option was eliminated - because of an accident that occurred elsewhere - by a new UP rule requiring 50-feet separation between active tracks, Lippincott explained.
(As a result, the foundation is considering moving from the roundhouse to a more strategic downtown location, he noted.)
Before the safety rule change, the West Colorado route had already been delayed by the recently completed COSMIX project that widened I-25 through central Colorado Springs. This kept those plans on ice for about five years, Lippincott said.
Even without the above difficulties, the foundation would have to deal with issues within Colorado Avenue itself. Utility lines beneath the pavement would need to be relocated “at a major effort and expense”; also, making room for streetcar tracks in the middle of the street could have meant reducing avenue auto traffic from two lanes each way to one, Lippincott said.
The Colorado Avenue effort had been more than talk. Because of foundation advocacy, the Colorado Avenue bridge over Monument Creek, which was built several years ago, has streetlights designed to be “extra-high” to ensure adequate clearance for trolley cars, Lippincott noted.
The Railway Foundation is excited about its new plans. A line through the downtown or to key college areas should generate plenty of riders and “is attractive to the downtown merchants,” Lippincott said.
Still, at some point, the foundation would “like to do something on the Westside,” he added.
No matter where streetcars run, cost will be an issue. Lippincott estimated that a tax of about a tenth of a percent (raising an estimated $7 million a year) would be needed to actually get streetcars into operation. But he expressed a quiet concern over how popular that might be with voters who would need to approve such a tax.
The foundation advocates streetcars as a unique tourist attraction and relatively low-cost mass transit opportunity.
Westside Pioneer article