‘Something is better than nothing’ – city grant request

       A fourth of a loaf is better than none?

Thanks to a recently completed project by City Engineering and the Stormwater Enterprise, this new headwall and detention pond are what stormwater will now face when washing down from the Garden of the Gods. On the other side is 36th Street, onto which water had been flowing in recent years without obstacle. According to Julie Pearson of City Engineering, because the work was inside the park, the pond could not be dug any deeper or wider at that spot than a ditch that had been there historically.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Colorado Springs City Council has come to that general conclusion regarding a grant application to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for a new bridge and other upgrades along the West Colorado Avenue area nicknamed “No Man's Land.”
       After seeking $9.5 million in December and recently being turned down, council members agreed by consensus at their April 27 meeting to accept the state's tentative offer of $2.5 to $3 million.
       The decision was complicated by two points - one, the application was submitted in combination with Manitou Springs and El Paso County, so those entities also must agree to the lesser award; and two, in exchange for the money, accepting the grant means CDOT handing over permanent maintenance of what is now US Business 24, a 1˝ mile stretch between 31st Street and the Highway 24 interchange. Colorado Springs would be responsible for its mile of Colorado Avenue and Manitou its half a mile of Manitou Avenue (the road's name on the Manitou side). The grant, if ultimately negotiated, would come through CDOT's Maintenance Incentive Pilot Program (MIPP).
       Manitou's City Council must still decide. The topic is scheduled for the body's May 5 meeting. A decision is needed by May 11 because that's the cut-off date CDOT has set for an amended grant application.
       Colorado Springs City Council member Jerry Heimlicher said after the April 27 meeting that he has talked to Manitou Mayor Eric Drummond, and he believes the MIPP support is there. However, he said, Drummond has expressed some concerns about Manitou's “short-term liability” regarding road improvements on its side at a time when, because of the reduced grant amount, his city would have little money available for that purpose. Heimlicher's argument in favor is “better something than nothing. This will put the control of that section into our hands.”
       The county is involved because about a quarter of the distance, on the south side of the avenue, is unincorporated (not part of Colorado Springs or Manitou). At this point, the county is a MIPP partner in name only, with no maintenance responsibilities and no money available to contribute - not even funds from the county's road and bridge fund, which commissioners chose not to share with area municipalities this year because of the county's difficult financial situation.
       But Westsider and County Commissioner Sallie Clark said the combined efforts of the county and the two municipalities could lead to grants from other sources in the future. Two possible sources are the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) and Stormwater Enterprise. In any case, she agrees with Heimlicher about accepting the lower grant amount in exchange for local control. Rather than having to deal with CDOT, “local entities can sit down and talk face to face about what needs to be done,” she said.
       If the road segment stays in CDOT control, the state has no plans for any significant work for about 10 years, when the next overlay is scheduled, Clark pointed out.
       There is a possibility CDOT's MIPP allocation could be higher. The $2.5 million is based on what the state believes it would cost to maintain the road segment for the next 20 years. But that estimate had not taken into account the decaying condition of the 75-year-old Adams Crossing bridge (on the avenue, near Columbia Road). CDOT's engineer has since told the city that the structural issue will be factored into its final estimate, Heimlicher said.
       Even if the MIPP total stays at $2.5 million, that would be enough to build a wider bridge that could handle a 100-year flood and provide sidewalks and bike lanes - the current span has room only for four lanes of traffic and a narrow sidewalk on one side - as well as to fund design, “public outreach,” right of way acquisitions and utility relocations, as listed in the presentation to City Council by City Engineer Cam McNair.
       If the city had gotten the $9.5 million it applied for, the project would have had a broader initial scope, also including fixing, replacing or adding drainage and utilities sytems and curb, gutter and sidewalks.
       Arguably, the first No Man's Land project has already been built. That's a six-foot-deep detention pond and dam at 36th Street and Temple Drive, where 36th ends at the Garden of the Gods. In the past, heavy rains would result in stormwater and debris flowing out of the Garden and down 36th onto Colorado Avenue.
       The $73,000 cost for the pond and headwall was covered by the city's general fund and the Stormwater Enterprise.
       The pond, which still needs landscaping, was constructed on the same spot as a ditch that used to hold back water before it filled up with sand in recent years, according to Rolly Muir, who has lived at the corner of 36th and Temple since 1963.
       According to Julie Pearson of City Engineering, “the sandy soils in the base of the pond will allow water to infiltrate and sediment to collect. The City Street Division plans to monitor the pond and clean it as necessary to maintain its capacity.”
       Addressing City Council, McNair described the 36th Street area as “just one drainage problem” in No Man's Land. “There are others all along this stretch that need to be dealt with.”
       But he expressed his greatest worry, not about the extent of the work, but about reaching a design consensus with residents and property owners in that area, many of whom will have concerns about losing right of way or being annexed.
       “I think every business and property owner along there will have a different idea on what they want to see, and coming up with a plan that everybody buys into could be difficult,” McNair said.

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