COSMIX, city help deaf and blind man at intersection
By Kyle Troxel
From a construction perspective, COSMIX milestones have included road openings, 12 miles of new lanes, 20 new bridges, drainage upgrades, and many others.
Every once in awhile, a milestone from the heart is achieved thanks to human generosity and compassion. Such is the story of Rudy Sanchez.
Rudy is a blind and deaf man who lives on Pine Street and volunteers at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. With the assistance of his chocolate lab Vince, a leader dog from Michigan, he rides the bus there, using the stops at Bijou and Spruce streets.
When COSMIX construction began working on Bijou Street between Spruce and I-25 in late 2006, the press was notified, messages were placed on the COSMIX web site, door to door visits were conducted, and signage was put up for public safety and information. Everyone knew what was happening, except for Rudy.
Jim Wall, Rockrimmon's traffic control supervisor, met him for the first time in December 2006 and recalled that “he was confused at first, and so were we, since we were not aware of the extent of his disability.” Crews were not able to communicate with Rudy but were able to show him where the new bus stop was located by escorting him after it was moved. In addition, Rockrimmon Constructors spoke with Mountain Metropolitan Transit and COSMIX shuttle drivers about Rudy because his dog Vince couldn't distinguish between the correct bus and one traveling a different route. In time, bus drivers learned to recognize him. They would get off the bus and place a hand on Rudy's shoulder to let him know to wait for the next bus.
The next spring when construction limits extended to the Bijou/Spruce intersection, crews found Rudy again confused by the new cones and again helped him. Neighborhood businesses told crews more about Rudy, and the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind put the workers in touch with his vocational rehabilitation counselor. Initially, Rockrimmon Constructors had someone assist him across the intersection every day until he and Vince adjusted to the ever-changing construction zone.
Rockrimmon Constructors then went a step further, working with City Traffic Engineering to modify its traffic control plan at that intersection as a permanent accommodation for Rudy. The chief feature is a walk-light activator on each corner that also turns on a vibrating buzzer. After pressing the button, Rudy can “feel” when the walk light comes on.
Scott Logan of Traffic Engineering said the city has previously installed walk/buzzers at a few other intersections around the city. “It would be cost-prohibitive to do it everywhere, but when we have disabled pedestrians we try to work with them,” he said.
Another amenity is the surface of the pedestrian ramps at Spruce/Bijou - they consist of small, specially shaped “domes” to help people with canes, Logan said.
With the new Bijou sidewalk complete, Rudy can once again grab a bite to eat at Denny's Restaurant, one of his favorite hangouts. Through an interpreter, Rudy commended the project's efforts on his behalf: “You have done a great job,” he said. “After that sidewalk opened up I couldn't wait to go to Denny's so I decided to try it (getting there) myself, and I made it just fine.”
Rockrimmon Construc-tors would like to thank the City of Colorado Springs, Mountain Metropolitan Transit, and the neighborhood businesses for taking an interest and making a difference in Rudy's life.
Editor's note: Troxel, the outgoing media contact for Rockrimmon Constructors, the COSMIX I-25 widening contractor, will work his last day in that capacity Oct. 31. He has been hired at KVOR radio.
More on Sanchez: According to Patty Wagner of the Colorado Department of Human Services' Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, he had always been deaf but in the last 10 to 12 years has gradually lost his eyesight. He finds his way with the help of his dog and a cane.