2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

    Sun, December 4, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    For years, the intersection at Powers Boulevard and Old Ranch Road has been one of the most dangerous in Colorado Springs.

    It’s on the far north edge of the city and it’s important because hundreds of students, parents and staff drive it each day — some kids even walk it, imagine that —getting to and from Pine Creek High School on the east side of Powers.


    But it’s an oddball arrangement where cars roaring along Powers at warp speeds actually are traveling on pavement that someday will be exit and entrance ramps on a full-blown highway interchange.

    Eventually, Powers will travel under Old Ranch, once a bridge is built to carry the road.

    Similar intersections exist on Powers at Union Boulevard and Briargate Parkway.

    The exit ramp design has created a fractured intersection resulting in a lot of fractured cars.


    Old Ranch has seen assorted roll-overs, T-bones and collisions with poles.

    There was another last week. Maybe you saw the headline. A car spectacularly rolled and smashed two utility poles. The driver, Sherry Parker, 49, of Falcon, suffered serious injuries.

    It was the latest of 37 wrecks reported at the intersection in three years. Of those, 17 were “right-angle” wrecks, known as T-bones.

    Many blame motorists on Powers for all the wrecks and say speeds need to be lowered and bridges built to end the carnage.





















    I called Dave Krauth, the city’s traffic engineer.

    First the good news.

    Krauth says construction will begin this spring, perhaps as early as April, on the bridges. The Colorado Department of Transportation agrees the intersections are dangerous and must be fixed. CDOT has appropropriated $9 million and hired a contractor to start construction.

    The bad news, it’s unclear exactly when the bridge at Old Ranch will start.

    Courtesy Google Earth

    At Union and Briargate, the bridges will carry Powers over the city streets, which will remain open as construction goes on around them.

    But because a bridge is needed to carry Old Ranch, there may be a significant delay in construction.

    “We’re not sure how they’ll be able to maintain traffic on Old Ranch,” Krauth said. “There’s really no good detour.”

    After the work starts, it may be 18 months before everything is done.

    As for speed limits on Powers, Krauth is not inclined to lower them.

    “The truth is, all but four of the 17 right-angle wrecks were caused by drivers on Old Ranch,” Krauth said. “Not Powers.”

    He said most of the wrecks could be easily avoided.

    “People need to stop running red lights,” he said. “It’s that simple. Red means red. Red means stop.

    “They need to start obeying the traffic lights.”

    Maybe we should put some red-light cameras at the intersection. I believe there’s a few spare cameras available!



    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.






    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.





    Sun, December 5, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Railroad crossings have nearly been eliminated in Colorado Springs.

    There are two in the Mill Street neighborhood — at Las Animas and at Sierra Madre streets, near the Drake Power Plant.

    Another is not far away at South Royer Street, just north of East Las Vegas Street, on the edge of the Hillside neighborhood.

     The city is conducting a survey of public opinion regarding the Royer crossing. See it here. 

    (NOTE: The electronic survey was shut down Dec. 17. But it will still accept mail-in surveys for a short time. To receive a hard copy of the survey, call 385-5877 or use the email contacts shown on the webpage.) 

    It’s studying whether to close the crossing after 25 accidents since 1975 and several near tragedies. About a dozen people have been hurt but no one has died in the wrecks. Yet.

    A truck became stuck on Nov. 11, 2010, trying to cross the railroad tracks on South Royer Street. The truckdriver ignored signs that closed the street to truck traffic due to the danger of becoming high-centered on the tracks.

    The city of Colorado Springs installed signs warning of the danger to trucks trying to cross the tracks on South Royer Street after a string of incidents. But truckdrivers repeatedly ignore the warnings and try to cross, often getting stuck on the tracks. There have been 25 wrecks since 1975 at the crossing and a dozen injuries, but no deaths.

     Recently, trucks and buses have become stuck on the crossing because of its steep grade. 

    The guys at nearby  Harris Used Parts have come to the rescue of stuck trucks several times. They use a forklift to lift the trucks. Usually, they say, they can dislodge the trucks.

    A forklift driver from Harris Used Parts tried to lift a truck stuck on the railroad tracks on South Royer Street on Nov. 11, 2010. He was unable to free the truck.

    The survey is the beginning of a community discussion about the crossing and whether it should be closed or moved to a safer location, said Dave Krauth, the city’s principal traffic engineer.

    It could lead to the city simply closing the crossing, which gets about 5,000 cars a day and about three dozen trains, or relocating it further west.

    The problem with the crossing is the steep pitch of Royer on the south side from Las Vegas Street.

    Krauth said it is a 15 percent grade. It drops off so sharply that low-riding trucks scrape and get caught on the tracks.

    Fixing the problem would require raising the road about four feet and cost $1.5 million, minimum, Krauth said.

    It would be easier to simply close it and rebuild a new crossing a mile or two west.

    There would be a huge fringe benefit for nearby residents in Hillside. Any new crossing would be required by federal law to incorporate the latest crossing guards, lights, sensors and safety devices.

    As a result, the crossing would qualify as a quiet zone. Engineers in passing trains would no longer be required to routinely blast their horns, which register at about 100 decibles, rattling houses, windows and eye-teeth.

    Here’s a link to a story about the crossing in September 2005 after a semi-truck got stuck and smashed there. It followed a similar truck-train encounter in July 2005.

    In December 2009, a tour bus became the latest victim of the crossing. Read about it at this link.

    Here’s what we wrote after a truck got stuck on Nov. 11, 2010.

    Here’s a look at the scars in the pavement from trucks stuck across the tracks:




    Wed, April 14, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Ralph Gleckler and his Siberian husky, Whisper, used to enjoy a quiet morning walk through their Falcon Estates neighborhood.

    Today, they find themselves dodging commuter traffic that roars through the rural subdivision situated north of Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard, one of the busiest intersections in Colorado Springs.

    The widening of Woodmen and construction of an interchange at Academy is causing perpetual gridlock.

    And motorists are using their onboard computer navigational devices to find the otherwise obscure access points  in Falcon Heights to escape the traffic jams.

    They are ducking off Woodmen and roaring through the neighborhood. Folks along the main short-cut routes like Gleckler and neighbor Janet Shea are suffering.

    It was bad enough when Colorado Springs’ explosive growth brought an onslaught of commercial development to north Academy Boulevard, resulting in dozens of Falcon Estates homes being replaced by big box stores, restaurants and shopping centers.

    The remaining neighbors found themselves living behind huge walls and dealing with lights, traffic noise and other byproducts of urban sprawl.

    Now, Falcon Heights is dealing with rush-hour traffic. It’s not exactly what developers had in mind when they created the neighborhood in 1964.

    It was envisioned as a tranquil place where officers from the Air Force Academy could build houses on 1- and 2-acre lots, keep and ride horses in a rural setting and enjoy a quiet life on the outskirts of Colorado Springs.

    That tranquility has vanished as the cut-through traffic increases. The  majority of the motorists hit the 25 mph neighborhood at 35 mph to 40 mph, said Dave Krauth, the Springs’ principal traffic engineer.

    Gleckler and Shea say it’s not unusual for commuters to hit 50 or 60 mph.

    Unfortunately, there’s not a lot the city can do to help, Krauth said.

     The reason?

    When Falcon Heights agreed to be annexed in 1994, its residents insisted the neighborhood retain its rural flavor behind the walls. They wanted to be free to keep and ride horses. And they didn’t want sidewalks, curbs and gutters lining their roads.


    Without curbs and gutters, the city loses most of the weapons in its aresenal to combat cut-through traffic. Normally, Krauth would reach into his bag of  “traffic-calming devices” and pull out speed humps, or medians, or curb bump-outs to slow and discourage commuters.

    They don’t work if motorists can simply drive around them. And they will, Krauth said. Shamelessly. It doesn’t help to erect stop signs, either.

    Absent heightened police speed patrols, traffic is free to roar away. Some neighbors are trying to discourage speeders with their own little signs. But it doesn’t help, folks say.

    Krauth said a speed radar sign will be used to discourage speeding. Otherwise, residents will have to grin and bear it until the construction project is finished in the summer of 2011.

    You can read more about the Woodmen Road Corridor Improvement Project  or learn about the history of the Falcon Estates Home Owners Association on its Web site.


  • TRAFFIC CONCERNS in Rockrimmon and Wagon Trails

    Sun, October 4, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    ============ UPDATE   BELOW –  UPDATE BELOW ============

    Remember the smashing fences in Rockrimmon? You know, the folks who live at the bottom of the hill where Vindicator Drive meets Rockrimmon Boulevard? They’ve lived with cars crashing into their yards for years.

    Below is a map from FlashEarth.com of the area:


    Two families – Mitch Logue and Donald and Colleen Kunecke, wanted the city to install guardrails to prevent future incidents like this one below:


    I’ve written about it a couple times. Here is a link to a previous blog about the problem.

    Well the Colorado Springs traffic engineer, Dave Krauth, said the intersection won’t accomodate guard rails. But he’s interested in testing sophisticated new traffic sensors to see if he can stop some of the carnage.

    The sensors track cars entering an intersection as the traffic signal is about to change. Traffic engineers call this moment the “dilemma zone.”

     The sensors can delay the change to allow the cars to clear without stomping on their gas and plowing over the curb and into a fence and yard.

    There’s also news on another bottleneck in the city. This one is a two-lane stretch of Dublin Boulevard between Bridle Pass Drive and Powers Boulevard. Here’s a look from FlashEarth:


    Readers like Tim Little want to know why Dublin suddenly shrinks from four lanes to two and a stretch of pavement sits unfinished.

    It’s a twisted tale of land that is annexed vs. unincorporated land stuck in El Paso County.


    It is further complicated by rules about when a develop must build infrastructure like roads, curbs and sidewalks.

    Krauth said the road will be widened as land is developed along the stretch. Already a short piece was widened but never attached to the intersection at Bridle Pass due to a property line issue.


    The rest of the road won’t be widened until county land on the north side is developed and annexed into the city.

    As a result, motorists are stuck with roads that look like this view to the east:


    And this view looking west:


    ================ NOW THE UPDATE ================


    I now have an answer to the mysterious disappearing pavement.


    The new black pavement was installed by the developer of a townhome project adjacent to Dublin Boulevard. However, it ends about 400 feet from the intersection to the west.

    Why didn’t the developer just finish the job?

    Tim Mitros of city engineering tells me the pavement ends at a property line. Developers are required to install infrastructure — sidewalks, curbs, gutters even roadway – adjacent to their projects. But not for a neighbor’s land.

    In the case above, the pavement ends at the property line of the next parcel and the remaining 400 feet will be installed if and when the adjacent land is developed.



    Sun, November 9, 2008 by Bill Vogrin with 10 comments

    To motorists like Wally Lucas, roundabouts or traffic circles are organized chaos. There’s nothing wrong with a roundabout that a couple stop signs wouldn’t cure.

    Lucas is so frustrated he wants voters to abolish roundabouts in Colorado Springs.

    Not so fast, says Dave Krauth, principal traffic engineer for Colorado Springs. He and other traffic engineers absolutely love roundabouts.

    They are a thing of beauty. Check out these views from GoogleEarth.com:

    Traffic engineers praise roundabouts for reducing the number of wrecks at intersections as well as the severity of injuries and damage due to wrecks. You don’t get those nasty T-bone crashes at roundabouts because there are no right-angle turns and speeds are lower.

    Here are a few of the roundabouts scattered across Colorado Springs. First, the hotly debated and fiercely opposed roundabout on Lake Avenue.

    Here is a look at one on Mesa Road at the entrance to Kissing Camels.

    The new Wolf Ranch subdivision on Research Parkway, east of Powers Boulevard, is an example of traffic engineer utopia. It is littered with roundabouts. Take a look.

    Then there is the “green” factor of roundabouts. Since you don’t stop, your fuel efficiency is enhanced.

    But Lucas said too many motorists are unfamiliar with the concept of continuous flowing traffic. The South Carefree Circle roundabout is especially treacherous because it has two lanes of traffic going in every direction.

    Krause and traffic engineers say roundabouts are simple, if people take the time to educate themselves. Study the signs. read the pamphlet and watch the video the city produced. It might help.

    You can find even more information on the city’s Traffic Roundabouts Web page at SpringsGov.com.