$300,000 study to detail needed work on troubled segment of W. Colorado

       Supporting public comments about worsening problems in the so-called “No Man's Land,” the Board of El Paso County Commissioners unanimously approved a grant Jan. 31 that will provide $300,000 for a planning study there.
       The ultimate goal is to identify and prioritize public infrastructure needs along the roughly 1 ½-mile corridor of Colorado/Manitou Avenue between 31st Street and Manitou Springs' Highway 24 interchange. When that's done, a search for construction funding will begin; a possibility mentioned by local officials is to include the segment as a priority project in the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) extension that's expected to go before voters this fall and (if passed) take effect in 2015.
       The grant is the first success after several failed applications for that part of West Colorado by local governments over the past seven years.
       “We've long looked for grants,” County Engineer Andre Brackin told the commissioners. “There's an extensive need for improvements.”
       The planning money will come from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Regional Project Priority Program, using a combination of state and federal funds. No local “matching funds” were required.
       Colorado Springs and Manitou are working with the county on the effort, although the grant contract is with the county only.
       Both Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder and District 3 City Council-member Lisa Czelatdko spoke for it at the meeting.
       Westside County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who has been seeking funding for No Man's Land upgrades since she took office in 2005, noted that “it takes a long time for these things to move along.” Referring to the multi-jurisdictional aspect - the segment passing through two cities, with unincorporated land on the south side of the avenue in the Colorado Springs portion and CDOT owning the roadway - she added, “They call it No Man's Land because nobody's wanted to take responsibility for it.”
       The county plan is to hire a consultant to lead the study. Public meetings are expected to be part of it. No time frame has been announced yet for the consultant hiring or the length of the study.
       Previous infrastructure an-alyses by local governments in that area have resulted in wish lists totaling $10 million or more. The Scope of Work that's part of the contract with CDOT includes the following summary:
       “The current road structure has not been modified and does not include improvements expected in a modern urban environment: areas without curb/gutter and sidewalk, no underground storm water system, undefined driveway access locations, many overhead utilities. The bridge over Fountain Creek has a low sufficiency rating (51.8) and may need improvements to better accommodate pedestrians as well as motor vehicular traffic. Also, the pavement structure has a steep roadway crown section which needs to be addressed.”
       Adding urgency at the meeting were comments about what's happening in No Man's Land now. Chief speakers were Bonnie Lapora, who has headed the neighborhood west of 31st, just north of the avenue, for about 25 years; and Mike Crepeau, who represents a merchant group along that stretch.
       Lapora de-scribed frequent incidents in the neighborhood, including break-ins, thefts of mail and workers' equipment, drunk and disorderly individuals and cars driving through slowly with their occupants clearly casing things out. “People are so frightened, they don't want to come out of their houses anymore,” she said.
       Addressing issues at the nearby Red Rock Center, Lapora said some stores “are getting so much shoplifting they're not making a profit. Something has to be done. We can't afford to lose these stores. They're an important part of our neighborhood.”
       She spoke of violent crime at the center. Recent incidents include a robbery/assault with a baseball bat and a machete-wielding robber at a pizza shop. Also, panhandlers are getting more aggressive. “My heart goes out to the homeless, but this goes beyond that,” Lapora said. “These are people who want their next buck to buy booze.”
       Crepeau cited several problems, saying he has “over a hundred pictures of prostitution, drug dealing and extremely aggressive panhandling.” Small stores are even afraid to leave female employees alone anymore, he added.
       Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), also spoke, asserting that the multi-jurisdictional situation as well as the “poor infrastructure” along West Colorado now are adding to the problems.

Westside Pioneer article