Property acquisitions (85 still needed) going hand-in-hand with WAAP construction
This strategy was made clear at the well-attended WAAP open house Feb. 2, 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 in the main hall of the Shrine Club at 33rd Street and Pikes Peak Avenue. “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.
Preliminary work on 'trail plaza'
According to discussions beforehand, the open house was meant only to explain the project, not to seek input that could lead to changes. The main public process, in which the governments and consultants asked for community values and roadway desires, took place between 2012 and 2014.
WAAP work started in December with utility location efforts and most recently has been focused near Ridge Road, where trees are being removed to allow
The plaza will be in the space where Ridge Road has always run between Colorado and Pikes Peak avenues. According to project information, it will be a lightly landscaped gathering area for pedestrians and bicyclists, with a nearby transit stop that, includes a pullout for buses.
From Pikes Peak Avenue, Ridge will be unchanged going north toward the Garden of the Gods. And from its new T-intersection at Colorado Avenue - which will be given a stoplight - Ridge will continue to go south toward Highway 24 and Red Rock Canyon.
In answer to an audience question, lead WAAP consultant Steve Murray said that traffic studies have shown that closing off Ridge at that point will have minimal impact on neighborhood traffic because an average of only 50 cars per hour would go through there.
1 property down, 85 to go
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
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.
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.
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.”
Bridge construction won't start before August
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
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.
Once construction of the Adams Crossing Bridge is able to start, the approach will be similar to that employed on the Fillmore and Cimarron freeway interchanges, in that the new bridge will be situated next to the old one (actually just north of it). That way, work on the north half of the new bridge can occur while vehicles still use the old one, Stultz summarized. When the north half is in, traffic will be diverted onto it while the old bridge is demolished and the southern half is built.
In addition to the work described above, the project is to include storm sewers and underground electric lines and (in places where they're missing now) sidewalks, along with utility replacements and a stoplight at Columbia Road.
Lane alignment will be similar to Manitou's
The WAAP upgrades will line up with a separate Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) project that started around the Manitou interchange last fall. Both have a three-lane alignment, with the only difference being that the CDOT/Manitou project did not include bike lanes.
At 11 feet wide, the segment's traffic lanes will each be a foot narrower than they are currently, and there will be a 4-foot-wide bike lane on either side. There is no space for on-street parking. Using a recently announced WAAP theme, Barron said that this alignment will result in a roadway stretch that is "slow and social."
The main reason that project team members proposed the lane reduction was because the current alignment, with two lanes each way and no turn lanes, produces too many rear-end collisions when people are turning. And that part of the avenue has dozens curb cuts that could be turned into.
The advertised public outreach process, which took place between 2012 and 2014, did not seek citizen input about bike lanes. The decision to include them was made later by officials from the county and two cities. At the end of the project, unless a change occurs, the WAAP segment will offer the only designated bike lanes along the avenue through the Westside.
Asked at the open house why bike lanes were included even though the Midland Trail and Pikes Peak Avenue (once designated as a bike route) are nearby, Barron said that although he was not involved in the bike-lane decision, his understanding is that there was a project-team desire to support bicyle-riding.
Westside Pioneer article