Hwy 24 casts long shadow
PPACG board tentatively OKs growth forecast OWN says will lead to ‘overengineered’ road expansion

       Despite an appeal from the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) board voted to move forward July 11 with staff-prepared population and job predictions for the year 2035.
       However, board member/County Commissioner Sallie Clark helped work out a compromise arrangement which requires staff to show its current Small Area Forecast - the formal name for the prediction effort - to a group of board-appointed residents called the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), who will report their findings to the board at its next monthly meeting Aug. 8.
       The majority in the 9-3 vote by the body of elected officials (from governments in a three-county region) combined those who had questions about the numbers and/or wanted CAC to get involved. PPACG staff has been showings its results to a technical advisory group but not to the CAC because of the technical nature of the data, explained PPACG transportation planner Craig Casper.
       The board minority (none of whom represents Westside areas) appeared to agree with PPACG staffers, who argued that they are correctly using one of the nation's most highly respected forecasting programs and who warned that further delays will continue to stall long-range planning efforts - including an air quality component which, if not turned in on schedule, would endanger certain federal funding in the region.
       An OWN argument that made some board members thoughtful related to the way the PPACG forecast assigns future jobs to different parts of the Colorado Springs metro area. The PowerPoint analysis, prepared by OWN President Welling Clark, illustrates, for example, that the staff model shows the Westside (which has little room to grow) adding more jobs than the 24,000-acre Banning Lewis subdivision as it brings in 61,000 people between now and 2035.
       Such predictions create a “simulated traffic crisis” and could lead to an “overengineered Highway 24,” Clark's document states.
       Considering that the major traffic need would seem to be in the newest growth area, “we're puzzled why Banning Lewis is being shorted,” commented OWN board member Dave Hughes, representing the volunteer group.
       Another OWN contention is that, in response to OWN's previous critique (after PPACG's computer run that resulted in April's predictions), the PPACG staff just moved job locations around in the June run, often from one transportation zone to its neighbor. “One of our board members asked if this was a shell game,” Hughes told the board.
       In their own document, PPACG staffers write that they have fixed relevant April problems and characterize OWN comments on the June run as misunderstanding the forecast program's methodology.
       At one point, Hughes asked Casper to specify where he thinks OWN's analysis is wrong, but PPACG board chair Wayne Williams ruled this was out of order.
       Later, however, Casper responded to the job-shift point by remarking that the OWN document failed to show that in the June run PPACG relocated about 2,000 Westside/Manitou jobs to the Banning Lewis area, not just to neighboring zones. Two board members expressed satisfaction at hearing this.
       Hughes said afterward such an amount is “miniscule.”
       Commissioner Clark said afterward she hoped that the CAC would look at points such as those.
       The three-hour discussion also included comments from city of Fountain representatives that city officials believe parts of the PPACG predictions for that town are implausible, support for PPACG staffers from their counterparts for the city and Manitou Springs and a request from CAC member Jan Doran to let her committee consider the matter.
       Residents often have a better idea of how their neighborhoods are or could be growing and can add “logic and common sense,” she said, to an otherwise purely technical computer simulation.
       Jerry Heimlicher, a board member and City Councilman whose district includes part of the Westside, said he would like to know - since PPACG staff changed some April numbers in response to questions from the Westside as well as Fountain - if other areas might currently have issues that remain unidentified because people living there have not yet studied the predicted numbers.
       Williams, also a Monument-area county commissioner, said he thought the June run showed improvements over April's. Approval of the June revisions was incorporated into his successful motion. He asked PPACG staff to provide more graphical explanation of their numbers. What's been provided is a plain spreadsheet, which readers could only understand if they had memorized the locations of different zones, he noted.

Westside Pioneer article