2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • ‘PPRTA’ SPELLS NEW ROADS, BRIDGES, SIDEWALKS

    Sun, February 19, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 5 comments

     

    About 30 percent of the $104 million interchange at Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard was paid for using PPRTA tax revenue.

    Ever wonder when Centennial Boulevard will be finished south from Fillmore Street, linking it to Interstate 25 at Fontanero?

    Maybe you’ve wanted Old Ranch Road widened at Kettle Creek. Or you want West Colorado Avenue and South 8th Street rebuilt with sidewalks, curbs, gutters and bike lanes.

    Those projects, and dozens more, are on the city’s wish list and they will be prioritized by the Colorado Springs City Council at its Feb. 28 meeting.

    You can check out the list . It is item 4-A-3 on the agenda and starts on page 26.

    Make your priorities known by contacting your Council rep.

    Then, in November, you’ll get more input when transportation officials ask voters to agree to pay for them all.

    The list includes projects scattered around Colorado Springs and lumped in five categories: expansion/enhancement; modernization/safety; non-motorized; preservation/restoration; and transit.

    Here's how the Proby Parkway interchange looks from GoogleEarth.

    Each project is graded and divided into the “A” and “B” categories. There are about 50 projects on the “A” list.

    Ranking the projects is a complicated process and required balancing lots of demands, safety questions and funding considerations.

    Take Centennial’s expansion. It’s been planned since the 1980s as Mountain Shadows and Peregrine developed and the high-tech industry boomed along the Garden of the Gods Road corridor. Centennial was to be the shortcut that took pressure off I-25.

    Of course, the high-tech corridor looks more like death row now. But plans for a Veteran’s Administration clinic at Centennial and Fillmore and other developments are putting new pressure on the city to finish the boulevard.

    The city would like to coordinate it with the planned reconstruction of the Fillmore-I-25 interchange, which the state Department of Transportation hopes to complete using a $10 million federal grant.

    “The problem is it needs to be completed with local money,” said Kathleen Krager, senior city traffic engineer. “We need $9 million. It’s on the A list of projects.”

    The question is how to come up with the money.

    Since 2004, a voter-approved one-cent sales tax has generated about $60 million a year for road construction, maintenance, sidewalks, curbs and gutters and bus service. The tax revenue is administered by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.

    But that tax is expiring in 2014 and without a source of revenue, the wish list will remain just that — wishes.

    “If we have funding, the Centennial project would be built, starting in 2015,” Krager said.

    Faithful Side Streets readers — both of you — know the value of the tax. Often I’ve written about projects.

    And when I studied the new list, I was amazed at the needs that still exist across the community.

    Take a look and let the city know your priorities.

    Then, in November, tell them again!

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  • CHESTNUT STREET BYPASS GETS REDRAWN; CHECK IT OUT

    Sun, January 8, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

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    This drawing shows the proposed north section of the Chestnut Street bypass at Fillmore Street with a new exit ramp from southbound Interstate 25.

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    This drawing of the proposed Chestnut Street bypass will be unveiled Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, as a public meeting at the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road

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    Here's a closer look at the plans for Parker Street, which becomes a dead-end in front of Ruth and Joe Wagner's home. Seven homes and two gas stations will be bought and demolished to make room for the bypass.

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    Here's a look at the properties to be bought and demolished to make way for the Chestnut Street bypass.Here's an overview of the project from the city's website.

    In September, city engineers riled up residents of Parker Street in the Mesa Springs neighborhood when they unveiled plans for rerouting Chestnut Street to unclog a dangerous intersection with Fillmore Street and Interstate 25.

    Back to the drawing board they went and now they are back with refined plans.

    Here's an overview of the project from the city's website.

    The new design for the Chestnut Street Bypass will be formally unveiled at a public meeting scheduled 5-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods, Room 1019. (Use the west entrance.)

    Hopefully it won’t get testy like the September meeting.

    Folks were cranky because the original design showed Parker becoming a cul de sac with a poorly thought-out access lane for two houses stuck at the end.

    Some felt the city had yanked them around, telling them one day to look for a new house because they were in the path of the bypass; then they were told later they were staying put.

    Some felt the city was ignoring their need to be able to park in front of their homes.

    A couple homeowners pleaded to be bought out by the city because they are convinced the project will ruin their property values and they would rather move than get left behind.

    It seems the city has done a better job communicating with neighbors about the revised plan. Those who have seen previews are a tad happier with the new drawings.

     In the new plan, there is room for cars to get all the way down Parker and turn around, unlike the original plan.

    “It’s better than the previous version,” said Ruth Wagner, whose house will be at the end of Parker Street’s cul de sac.

    “We won’t be backing down the street to our house,” she said, referring to the September drawing. “That was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. In this plan, we’ll have a parking area. It’s totally changed.”

    Other neighbors echoed Ruth’s opinion that the revised design looks better.

    But all seem to dread a year of brain damage once construction starts in the spring with the demolition of seven houses and two gas stations.

    When it’s done, some worry about the noise they’ll have to endure from the traffic that will zip up and down the bypass to the large American Furniture Warehouse store to the south.

    Others expect to be frustrated at their loss of direct access to Fillmore Street.

    This is a 2009 graphic showing plans at the time to extend Centennial Boulevard.

    Some fear the bypass will be a favorite short-cut route and wonder why the city doesn’t complete the roughed-in southern leg of Centennial Boulevard to Van Buren Street or even to Fontanero Street.

    I asked Mike Chaves, acting city engineer, about the neighbors’ concerns. He said the city has tried to respond to all concerns about the bypass.

    “We’ve met with most of the residents,” he said. “We want to give everyone a final view to show where we’re headed and hopefully answer any questions.”

    I wrote about plans to extend Centennial Boulevard in this 2009 blog.

    Follow this link to my September column about the unhappy Parker Street residents.

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  • SUV INCOMING! LOOK OUT BELOW!!!

    Wed, May 4, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Centennial Boulevard climbs north toward the exclusive Peregrine neighborhood past Mountain Shadows, Pinon Valley, Ute Valley Park, Oak Valley Ranch and includes sweeping curves and steep drop-offs in places.

    Centennial Boulevard climbs north toward the exclusive Peregrine neighborhood past Mountain Shadows, Pinon Valley, Ute Valley Park, Oak Valley Ranch and includes sweeping curves and steep drop-offs in places.


    After the SUV was winched out of the yard, Jeff Pitus was left with the aftermath. The damage inside his home is much worse.

    After the SUV was winched out of the yard, Jeff Pitus was left with the aftermath. The damage inside his home is much worse.

    See the missing section of fence in the photo? The house behind is owned by Jeff Pitus

    On Good Friday, his house was knocked off its foundation by an SUV that roared off Centennial Boulevard, smashed through his neighbor’s fence, became airborne and plowed into his deck and retaining wall. 

    Check out the rubble left behind after the SUV was winched out of the yard. 

    The SUV is winched up and out of Jeff Pitus' backyard and back onto Centennial Boulevard.

    The SUV is winched up and out of Jeff Pitus’ backyard and back onto Centennial Boulevard.

    Not what you want to see from your bedroom window! 

    Jeff and his neighbor Bryan Bruce say this was not the first time a car smashed through a fence and landed in a yard.

    They worry that someone will be killed by a maniacal driver. Their situation is especially dangerous because their houses sit so far below Centennial.

    Before tragedy strikes, they want the city to install a guardrail or concrete barrier to deflect traffic back onto Centennial.

    Both sides of Centennial have guardrails about 500 yards to the north.

    The path of a marauding SUV is visible from the smashed fence on the left, the damaged retaining wall and deck on the back of Jeff Pitus' home.Dave Krauth, city traffic engineer, said guardrail typically costs about $30 a foot and could be an option to protect the neighbors.

     

     

     

     

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    Two unidentified Colorado Springs firefighters study an SUV that wrecked behind the home of Jeff Pitus on Rising Moon Drive in the Oak Valley Ranch neighborhood. His house backs up to Centennial Boulevard and this SUV is not the first motorist to leave the road.

    Two unidentified Colorado Springs firefighters study an SUV that wrecked behind the home of Jeff Pitus on Rising Moon Drive in the Oak Valley Ranch neighborhood. His house backs up to Centennial Boulevard and this SUV is not the first motorist to leave the road.

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  • ON SECOND THOUGHT . . . maybe new houses, road could SAVE the neighborhood

    Wed, November 4, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    For years, residents of Mesa Springs neighborhood fought to prevent Colorado Springs from extending Centennial Boulevard south from Fillmore Street to connect with Interstate 25 at Fontanero Street.

    They feared their 50-year-old neighborhood of modest homes would be wrecked by Centennial. They saw it creating a Bermuda Traffic Triangle between Centennial, Fillmore and I-25.

    Here is a look at the area from FlashEarth:

    mesaspringscentennial

     But now a developer has contacted the city about building upwards of 500 homes — either single-family, townhomes, condos or apartments — on 47 acres on the west edge of the neighborhood.

    The property owner is MVS Development of Albuquerque, N.M. They hired NES Inc., a land planning and landscsape architecture company in the Springs, to get the land rezoned.

    Ron Bevans, an NES project manager, said the owners want the city to approve a broad rezoning plan. Part of the project would include consolidating a 17-acre landfill on the site into an 8-acre open space that would be capped.

    Here’s another look from FlashEarth:

    mesaspringsflash

    The project, which Bevans described as in its infancy stage, would include building a big chunk of the Centennial extension.

    Curb and gutter exist for a half mile or so south of Fillmore, said James Mayerl, a city planner who is reviewing the MVS project. And Mayerl said the new project might be the impetus for actually completing Centennial.

    In fact, the city is studying the transportation plan for the corridor, looking for ways to take pressure off the intersection of Fillmore and I-25. The long-planned Centennial extension would be a  key piece of any plan.

    Bevans said his clients do not have blueprints or a builder for the project. They simply are preparing the site for eventual development and alerting neighbors that the process is underway.

    Many neighbors are apprehensive about the proposal. They already suffered the loss of 127 neighborhood homes when I-25 was realligned a decade ago and the sound wall erected. And they recently suffered the closure of their neighborhood school, Zebulon Pike Elementary.

    But some neighbors, like Carol Gravenstein, view the project and the extension of Centennial as a way to resurrect the school if enough new families move into Mesa Springs.

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  • DIRT TRAILS are not “happy trails”

    Wed, September 9, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Lorine Zukowski thinks it is wrong for Colorado Springs to allow developers leave dirt trails where sidewalks are supposed to go.

    She understands that heavy construction equipment can ruin sidewalks. But she’s tired of shuffling through the dirt and mud, getting scratched by weeds and dodging snakes as she walks her neighborhood.

    The mess can’t be avoided because a long stretch of sidewalk along Centennial Boulevard is missing near the Chesham Village South Townhomes, being developed by Clancy Building and Design.

    centennialsidewalk1

    Below is a look at the project’s Web page. This architect’s drawing shows six buildings. Only three are built . . . the two along Chesham Circle on the north and the building on the western edge of the project. The three on the south side of Chelsea Village Heights have not been built.

    cheshamvillage

    Here’s a look at what actually exists on Chelsea Village Heights:

    centennialvacantlot1

    The street is blocked by a fence. Beyond it, you can see the corner and the missing sidewalks where neighbors deal with a dirt trail.

    centennialfence

    Here’s a closer look at the dirt trail, facing south along Centennial Boulevard.

    centennialcattletrail

    Below is a vew to the north, showing how kids must dodge a steel structure to make their way down to the bus stop:

    centennialcattletrail3

    Developer Al Clancy said he’d love to finish the project and install the sidewalks. But he said there’s not much he can do until the economy improves and he can resume construction of his townhomes.

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