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WAAP works through issues - 'No Man's Land' construction to start after mid-2016

       After half a year of uncertainties about cost, scope and time, an optimistic scenario has emerged for a complex government project that's set to radically upgrade the stretch of Colorado/Manitou Avenue that's long been known as “No Man's Land.”
       In a recent presentation, project leaders Andre Brackin and Steve Murray explained how plans are solidifying
County Engineer Andre Brackin speaks at a 2013 public meeting on the Westside Avenue Action Plan.
Courtesy of Westside Avenue Action Plan
for construction that would start in earnest in the latter half of 2016, probably be completed in 2018 and, with the help of intergovernmental cooperation, wind up close to the original budget of $15 million.
       Brackin is the El Paso County engineer; Murray, from the engineering design firm of Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig, is the lead consultant in the project study known as the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP).
       The study began in mid-2012 and was boosted by a citizen vote that November to extend the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) capital tax, which included a project list calling for avenue work from 31st Street to just east of Manitou's Highway 24 interchange. Other funds became available this year as a result of the county taking over maintenance of that part of the avenue from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
       Based on the study, major project elements will be a new Colorado Avenue bridge over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road (historically known as Adams Crossing), utility and other service upgrades (including the undergrounding of storm sewers and electric lines), a two-lane avenue layout with bike lanes and sidewalks, a missing Midland Trail link and revamped intersections adding stoplights at Columbia and at Ridge Road.
       Speaking to the board of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) in mid-November, Brackin and Murray provided an updated schedule and details of how the work will be accomplished. The plan is to have three to four phases/segments, with construction starting at the west end of the project area and moving east. This will be preceded by efforts - already under way - to negotiate easements and right-of-way pieces from various property owners in the area.
       With one exception - where a southern chunk of the Garden of the Gods RV Resort is needed for the bridge - the project is not seeking large amounts of land from individual private properies. But small pieces are sought in several locations.
       Murray said he is optimistic about negotiations, pointing out that no opposition has been encountered from the “handful [of property owners] that we've talked to so far.”
       Each property must be dealt with individually because of unique situations
A poster board at the March 2013 Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP) public meeting summarizes what the ultimate construction project is intended to accomplish. One more bullet item was added to this list at the last meeting in 2014: "Implement the vision (design and construction)."
Courtesy of WAAP (graphic by Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig)
and the requirement that each “has to be made whole,” Brackin said.
       WAAP's key, recent planning breakthroughs have been one, nailing down an agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities on how much it could invest and when; two, convincing CDOT to take on Highway 24 interchange upgrades that Manitou Springs wanted just west of the WAAP boundary; and three, saving money by cutting back on the work to be done between 31st and 33rd streets.
       All of the above had previously posed planning questions in terms of cost, scope and/or time.
       At one point, the possible project cost had risen to $25 million or more. But now the estimate is down to $16-17 million - “just over budget,” Murray said. If need be, additional funds could be sought from PPRTA reserves, although “we're hoping we don't have to do that,” he said.
       As a result of discussions with CDOT, its interchange work - including drainage and pedestrian improvements - is to synchronize with the start of the WAAP project. This will occur in the “third quarter” of 2016, Brackin said (meaning sometime after June). The first WAAP phase/segment is slated to be entirely within Manitou, between the interchange and Crystal Hills Boulevard.
       He estimated Phase 1 concluding by the spring of 2017, at which time construction would start on Phase 2 - highlighted by the new Adams Crossing bridge.
       The work will be extensive in places, with the installation of storm drains (there are none now) requiring digging as deep as 10 feet, Brackin said.
       Following that will be Phases 3/4 - mainly between 31st and 33rd streets, where it's perceived that fewer massive improvements are needed - with work expected to take a year or so, Brackin outlined. The savings will come from keeping most of the work on the surface, although there will be a new sidewalk on the north side of the avenue west of 31st.
       Traffic impacts from the project in general are not yet defined, but at least the old
A photo shot in 1913, looking west, shows a footrace about to start on what engineers now call the "slip ramp" off westbound Colorado Avenue coming up to Columbia Road. The store in the photo took its name from Charles Adams, a Civil War veteran, prominent local businessman, Indian agent and one-time ambassador to Bolivia who had lived nearby until his death in 1895. For the upcoming "No Man's Land" project, this location will be redeveloped in part for what's to be called the Adams Crossing bridge.
Courtesy of Tom Daniels, from Old Colorado City Historical Society Archives
bridge will stay open because the new one will be built just north of it, plans show.
       The presentation also brought out other project aspects on which engineers are sharpening their focus:
       - Sidewalks will be 10 feet wide on either side, leaving room above for amenities (including streetlights and possibly landscaping) and room below for utility lines.
       - A bicycle/pedestrian/transit-friendly zone will be created between Colorado and Pikes Peak avenues at Ridge Road as a result of making it so Ridge does not go through at that point.
       - Columbia Road will be realigned to make access safer for the Garden of the Gods RV Resort at the northwest corner of Columbia and the avenue. (This is partly in exchange for the resort giving up land for the bridge right of way.)
       - To fill the Midland Trail gap between Ridge and Columbia, earlier WAAP plans had suggested routing it along the avenue. Instead, the trail will continue along Fountain Creek west of Ridge, then swing north toward Adams Crossing through an opening south of the avenue, made possible by the project purchasing and demolishing an older motel.
       - A bike/pedestrian bridge west of the traffic bridge will connect the two sides of the avenue and serve as part of the Midland Trail route.
       - No mandatory annexation is planned. According to city information, more than 20 properties in the project area, all south of the avenue and east of Manitou, are under county jurisdiction, with 8 of them on septic. Project leaders hope that some of these - especially those on septic - will annex voluntarily to take advantage of the new services that Springs Utilities will install in the project.
       After the presentation, OWN President Welling Clark praised the WAAP concept as a way to “regenerate and rejuvenate that part of the avenue.”
       The project area has been nicknamed No Man's Land, largely because of infrastructure neglect by its multiple government jurisdictions (the county and two cities, plus CDOT), along with minimal private redevelopment over many decades. With the county, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs all involved in the planning, the study has proven more complex than initially perceived - for example, a schedule at a WAAP public meeting two years ago predicted construction starting in early 2015.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 11/25/15; Projects: No Man's Land)

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