Westside has $60M stake in RTA tax extension

       An extension of the .55 percent sales tax covering capital improvements by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) will go before voters in the Nov. 6 election.
       As part of that, Ballot Issue 5A offers a new list of projects - including more than $60 million worth on the Westside - to be funded by that tax between the years 2015 and 2024.
       The full sales tax rate approved by voters for the initial RTA in 2004 was 1 percent. The other .45 percent (.35 percent maintenance and .10 percent transit) continues indefinitely.
       The RTA is a legal entity in El Paso County with member governments (those that charge the sales tax) whose staff people plan and manage the work, much of which is contracted out. Overseeing these efforts is a board of directors consisting of representatives of the member governments. These are the county, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Ramah. Calhan will be added if the extension passes.
       The RTA itself has allocated no money to promote the ballot issue, according to Rob MacDonald, director of the regional Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and secretary of the RTA. Instead, there's a volunteer advocacy group, called Extend the RTA, with all its funding coming from private contributions, said Dirk Draper, one of its leaders.
       Draper said the area badly needs the projects identified in the ballot issue; as evidence, he pointed to a just-released document by the Southern Colorado branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which graded the city in six infrastructure categories. The grades included “D's” in both the “Roads” and “Bridges” categories, with the ASCE including a recommendation to extend the RTA to help address those shortfalls.
       In the ballot issue, Westside locations are directly identified in 8 of 74 “A-list” projects (although two of these - one by the city and one by the county - are to be combined as one project in the “No Man's Land” area along the Colorado Avenue corridor west of 31st Street).
       The extension also contains a 76-item B list, which includes four specifically Westside projects.
       The total budget for all the projects on the RTA's A list is $284,850,000, according to the “PPRTA Extension Project List” document, which member-government staffers prepared last spring and which has been presented to local elected officials and the public. (However, these dollar amounts do not appear on the ballot.)
       The Westside portion of the RTA A-list budget is $35,293,000, document figures show.
       The document puts the total RTA B-list budget at $282,970,000 of which the Westside share is $26,233,000.
       The '04 project budget had was about about $445 million total, but reported inflation and increased construction costs have raised costs 50 percent or more.
       According to a previous interview with City Trans-portation Manager Kathleen Krager, revenue expectations for the extension are lower than those preceding the current RTA. It needed a strong economy to fund any projects other than those on the A list (which were promised). But because the economy went the other way, no B and C items have been accomplished and it's unknown if any will be affordable prior to the end of 2014.
       For the RTA extension, sales-tax revenues are predicted to come in at the actual (lower) pace of the current RTA. If that happens, all the A-list projects could still be funded with only 75 percent of the total capital money over the 10-year span. So even in a poor economy some B-list projects could be completed, the thinking goes. On the other hand, if the economy rebounds and revenues come in at 150 percent of expectations, all the B projects could be done.
       In the list below, the text in quotes represents the project wording as it appears on the ballot. Project costs (not shown on the ballot) are taken from the PPRTA Extension Project List document. The text in parentheses after the cost is a brief description of the envisioned work, based on staff information.
       Note: All projects listed here are proposed by Colorado Springs, except for the second “W. Colorado Ave. Reconstruction,” which is proposed by El Paso County as a combination project with the city.
  • “W. Fillmore over Unnamed Channel Bridge Replacement,” $1 million (storm drain under Fillmore Street near Coronado High School - deterioration in corrugated metal pipe).
  • “Chestnut St. over S. Douglas Creek Bridge Replacement,” $1.8 million (storm drain at Douglas Creek crossing - deteriorated and undersized pipe).
  • “Centennial St.: Garden of the Gods to Fillmore Pavement Reconstruction,” $8.065 million (rebuild this Centennial Boulevard segment because of expansive soils, insufficient asphalt structure and drainage problems with medians).
  • “8th St. Improvements.: Motor City Way to Fountain Creek,” $1.5 million (roadway, pedestrian and bicycle improvements).
  • “Centennial Blvd. Extension: Fillmore to Fontanero,” $10.45 million (build segments of new four-lane road that are not built by private developrs, including noise barriers, bike lanes and pedestrian facilities). Note: The city share of the extension is a C-list item in the current RTA.
  • “W. Colorado Ave. Reconstruc-tion: 31st St. to US 24 (Joint Proj-Manitou Spgs, EPC),” $8.6 million.
  • “W. Colorado Ave. Reconstruc-tion: 31st St. to US 24 (Joint Proj-Manitou Spgs, EPC),” $3.428 million. (The latter two projects represent a combined effort by Colorado Springs and El Paso County to upgrade this avenue segment, including curb, gutter, sidewalks, bridge replacement, transit enhancements, right of way, utility relocation and drainage.)
  • “Midland Trail Improvements: Ridge Rd. to Columbia St.,” $450,000 (completion of trail along Colorado Avenue corridor).
  • “21st Street over Fountain Creek, Bridge Replacement,” $1.939 million.
  • Eighth Street over Fountain Creek, Bridge Rehabilitation,” $1.566 million.
  • “21st St. Roadway Improvements: US 24 S to L. Gold Camp Rd.” $6.6 million (government portion of cost to four-lane this segment with bike lanes, sidewalks and drainage improvements).
  • “30th St. Corridor Improve-ments,” $8.25 million (road, utility and intersection improvements as needed to allow bike lanes on 30th between Fonatenero Street and Centennial Boulevard).
           Note: A fifth B-list project (“Cimarron over Fountain Creek Bridge Replacement”) was identified as being on the Westside in a previous Westside Pioneer article, but it has since been learned that its location is where Cimarron crosses the creek just east of I-25 and south of its confluence with Monument Creek.

    Westside Pioneer article