• Colorado Springs man fears being trapped in home by cracked sidewalk

    Fri, December 6, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The public sidewalk in front of Duncan MacDonald's home on Ute Drive is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he'll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The public sidewalk in front of Duncan MacDonald’s home on Ute Drive is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he’ll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    For years, Duncan MacDonald tried to patch the public sidewalk in front of his little bungalow.

    But his patches failed and the concrete cracked and heaved and flaked away, creating a trap for anyone in a wheelchair in front of his home near Fillmore Street and Templeton Gap Road.

    Over the years, Duncan MacDonald has tried to patch the sidewalk in front of his home on Ute Drive. The sidewalk is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he'll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Over the years, Duncan MacDonald has tried to patch the sidewalk in front of his home on Ute Drive. The sidewalk is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he’ll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “My sidewalk is a mess,” MacDonald said. “Twice I’ve rescued people in a wheelchair who got stuck out there.

    “And there’s another fellow who rides in the street in his wheelchair to avoid our sidewalk.”

    MacDonald hoped the city would fix the problem after Colorado Springs voters passed the one-cent sales tax in 2004 to fund the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.

    In selling the tax to voters, the city agreed to take responsibility for maintaining sidewalks, curbs and gutters using tax proceeds.

    And, in fact, the city has repaired or replaced an amazing number of sidewalks, curbs and gutters since using PPRTA funds. The street division reports that since 2006, it has fixed 109.6 miles of curb and gutter, 3,811 pedestrian ramps, 13,621 “trip hazards” where sidewalks have heaved creating dangerous conditions, and a whopping 54.1 miles of sidewalk.

    The public sidewalk in front of Duncan MacDonald's home on Ute Drive is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he'll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The public sidewalk in front of Duncan MacDonald’s home on Ute Drive is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he’ll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    After the tax passed, MacDonald dutifully reported his sidewalk to the city and waited for crews to show.

    He’s still waiting even though he’s called back several times seeking help.

    Mike Chaves, a senior civil engineer for the city, said MacDonald hasn’t been forgotten. His sidewalk was evaluated in 2005 and 2007 and remains on the waiting list.

    “We’re slowly getting to everyone,” Chaves said.

    Unfortunately, that waiting list is long with lots of folks like MacDonald. While dozens of miles of sidewalk have been fixed, there are 2,362 miles of curb and gutter and sidewalk in the city. And many of them are cracked and heaving and flaking.

    Duncan MacDonald stands amid his cracked, heaving and flaking sidewalk on Ute Drive on Dec. 3, 2013. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he'll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Duncan MacDonald stands amid his cracked, heaving and flaking sidewalk on Ute Drive on Dec. 3, 2013. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he’ll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    MacDonald has patiently waited for his name to reach the top of the list. But he’s getting concerned because the next person in a wheelchair who gets stuck in the sidewalk may be MacDonald.

    “I’m disabled now,” said MacDonald, an 86-year-old retired builder and inspector.

    He explained that he suffers a degenerative lung disease that requires constant oxygen and a walker to get around.

    “I’m going to need a wheelchair but I won’t be able to get out of my house in it,” he said, shaking his head. “I need to replace the sidewalk to my front door, too. But they can’t do it until the city fixes the public sidewalk out front.

    “I couldn’t get off my own property in a wheelchair.”

    The public sidewalk in front of Duncan MacDonald's home on Ute Drive is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he'll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The public sidewalk in front of Duncan MacDonald’s home on Ute Drive is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he’ll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    When I told Chaves that MacDonald may be trapped in his home by the sidewalks, the engineer said he may be able to bump him to the top of the list.

    “Handicapped accessibility is one of the criteria we look at,” Chaves said. “It’s a priority.”

    A couple days later, Chaves called me back with good news.

    “I think we can get something going for him after the first of the year,” Chaves said. “We looked at the extenuating circumstances — the fact he’s disabled and can’t use a wheelchair on the sidewalk.

    “We’re going to go fix that sidewalk for him.”

    Of course the work is weather-dependent. And it will have to be scheduled with a city contractor.

    But Chaves said MacDonald will not be waiting years for help.

    “We’ll be there in the near future,” he said. “We’ll make an effort to get in there as quickly as possible.”

    Hopefully MacDonald may have made his last wheelchair rescue in front of his home.

    120613 Side Streets 5

    The public sidewalk in front of Duncan MacDonald’s home on Ute Drive is cracked, heaving and flaking away. Twice, MacDonald has rescued people in wheelchairs who became trapped on the sidewalk. Now he fears he’ll be trapped in his home as he uses a wheelchair due to declining health. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

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  • HOW MUCH DO THE WAGNERS HAVE TO ENDURE?

    Sat, April 13, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Ruth Wagner stands in the front yard of her home on Parker Street and the concrete wall that is part of the Chestnut Street bypass project.

    Ruth Wagner stands in the front yard of her home on Parker Street and the concrete wall that is part of the Chestnut Street bypass project.

    How much does one family have to put up with in its neighborhood?

    Ruth and Joe Wagner certainly have endured more than their share and still have months to go before things get back to normal.

    Of course, how normal will it ever be after having the street in front of their house closed and ripped out and replaced by a six-foot-tall, tan concrete wall stamped to look like stone?

    Ruth Wagner explains how Parker Streets ends abruptly now and five neighbors' homes were purchased by the city and demolished to make room for the Chestnut Street bypass.

    Ruth Wagner explains how Parker Streets ends abruptly now and five neighbors’ homes were purchased by the city and demolished to make room for the Chestnut Street bypass.

    But that’s the future facing the Wagners in their home on Parker Street, a working-class neighborhood just south of Fillmore Street and west of Interstate 25.

    Parker Street Bypass ZTheir front yard and neighbors were sacrificed as the city works to fix a nightmare intersection where Fillmore, Chestnut Street and the I-25 on- and off-ramps converge.

    In 2010, city traffic engineers began holding public hearings to decide how to fix the intersection. Neighbors protested but the decision was made to reroute Chestnut and bypass Fillmore and I-25.

    It was too expensive to run Chestnut under Fillmore. So they decided Chestnut would cross Fillmore a block west — at the old Parker Street intersection.

    That meant turning Parker Street into a dead-end, taking out five houses and building a sweeping, curving roadway right past the Wagner’s front yard.

    The wall was built to buffer them from the traffic noise and headlights.

    But, let’s face it, it’s a wall.

    So instead of having a cherry tree in their little lawn, with a sidewalk and neighbors across the street, the Wagners have the wall and the prospect of commuter traffic zipping past, day and night, funneling cars trying to get from Holland Park and points north to downtown without getting on I-25.

    The construction is the just latest turmoil for the Wagners.

    I first wrote about them in 2008 when a tattoo parlor moved into the little strip mall next door.

    They were enduring loud motorcycles and late night shenanigans in the parking lot and a lot of suspicious activities that scared the couple and made them fear for the safety of their son, now 10.

    Their suspicions were confirmed when the Colorado Springs Police raided the parlor in a weapons and drug bust that June.

    In the ensuing years, they’ve had to endure the stress of the bypass project. They have seen longtime neighbors leave, their houses demolished, trees cut down.

    The Wagner house is obscured by the concrete wall, just right of the large tree.

    The Wagner house is obscured by the concrete wall, just right of the large tree.

    And anyone who has lived in a construction area knows how bad the past six months have been. Did I mention their sewer line was broken, requiring repair? Luckily, it was repaired by city crews.

    “We’re surviving it,” Ruth said. “It’s not enjoyable.”

    I asked her what was the worst part of the project.

    “The hardest part has been having people coming through our yard all the time,” she said.

    Folks with dogs have decided it’s easier to squeeze through an eight-inch gap between the wall and the Wagner’s fence and trespass across their yard rather than use the big, wide opening in the wall designed as a pedestrian walkway a few yards away.

    “It’s been a zoo,” she said. “We tell them they can’t come through. But they do anyway.”

    Neighbors of Ruth and Joe Wagner have been squeezing through this gap between the wall and their fence and trespassing through their yard.

    Neighbors of Ruth and Joe Wagner have been squeezing through this gap between the wall and their fence and trespassing through their yard.

    Call that insult on top of injury.

    Construction crews have been very kind to the Wagners, trying to accommodate them and keeping them up-to-date on various phases of construction. They even repainted the wall when the original red color left neighbors aghast.

    And when I visited Wednesday, one of the crew was trying to fill the gap in the wall with chainlink fencing to stop the short-cutting pedestrians from traipsing through the Wagners’ yard.

    The bypass is scheduled for completion in October and Ruth is dreading its grand opening.

    “It’s quiet now,” she said. “It’s going to get loud once the road opens. All I’ve got to look at is dirt and the highway. There are no houses. No trees.”

    She listed off all the neighbors who were bought out and moved away. She stays in touch with several. And she envies them.

    “I wish,” she said, “the city would have bought our house so we could have left, too.”

    This is how Parker Street appeared in 2011, looking north.

    This is how Parker Street appeared in 2011, looking north.

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    This is how Parker Street appears now with the wall.

    This is how Parker Street appears now with the wall.

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  • WARNING: ‘DIVERGING DIAMOND’ TO JOIN DRIVER VOCABULARY

    Fri, February 24, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 7 comments

    .

    Ever danced the Hokey Pokey at a wedding reception?

    You know . . . Put your left foot in, put your left foot out. Shake it all about.

    Good. Then you’ll be ready for what Colorado Springs traffic engineers have in store when they rebuild the Interstate 25 interchange at Fillmore Street.

    The reconfigured interchange, as planned, will introduce a whole new dance step for drivers and it’s not unlike the Hokey Pokey silliness.

    The plans call for construction of a “diverging diamond” interchange.

    This graphic shows traffic flow in a "diverging diamond" interchange. Traffic on the Fillmore Street Bridge would follow a similar pattern as shown here.

    Interstate 25 and Fillmore Street as seen from GoogleEarth. Under the Diverging Diamond configuration, the interchange would be simplified because Chestnut Street will be realligned to the west and no longer intersecting with the southbound I-25 exit-entrance ramps.

    Not a familiar driving term?

    Don’t feel bad.

    Most of the world’s driver are immune to it.

    But just as the once-obscure “round-about” has become more common in our driving vocabulary (as in “these freaking round-abouts drive me freaking crazy”), so, too, will “diverging diamond.”

    Soon, actually, if the city lands a $10 million federal grant to pay for a makeover of the interchange, says Kathleen Krager, senior city traffic engineer.

    Rebuilding the interchange is too expensive. so the old bridge will remain. But that’s about all that will stay the same.

    Ty Pennington of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

    What Krager described to me sounds like an extreme makeover. All that will be missing is the annoying guy with the spiked hair, soul patch and megaphone.

    There will be, I fear, plenty of people shouting “Move that bus!” because the diverging diamond looks pretty confusing.

    Here’s how it will work.

    Motorists on Fillmore will criss-cross each other, just as they approach the bridge over I-25.

    The manuever will look just like my kids’ electric slot car race track where the cars duck back and forth across the tracks. (Of course, this usually creates spectacular slot-car crashes.)

    There will be traffic signals preventing spectacular crashes on Fillmore.

    Hopefully.

    This is a screen-capture from an animated fly-through created by Fisher Associates, a New York engineering firm.

    For example, westbound traffic on Fillmore will cross onto the far left lanes, or south side, of the bridge. In other words, traffic will be traveling on the wrong side of the bridge.

    Same for the eastbound cars. They will shift onto the north lanes to cross the bridge.

    Krager said the beauty (huh?) of the diverging diamond is that it creates no-wait exits onto the interstate.

    Westbound drivers, for example, will leave a traffic signal, move to the wrong side of the bridge and have a smooth left turn onto southbound I-25 before the traffic crosses back onto the normal side of the road.

    “It removes the left turns that cause conflict,” Krager said. “Everything becomes right turns.”

    This link takes you to an animated flyover that explains the diverging diamond.

    Click here to see another more rudimentary animated interchange.

    The diverging diamond is debated on this Minnesota website and includes actual video of a diverging diamond in action.

    Like I said, it’s just like doing the Hokey Pokey where turn yourself around.

    That’s what it’s all about.
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  • ‘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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  • R.I.P. DESSIE AND C. ROB ON YOUR TAYLOR’S ACRE IN THE SKY

    Sun, December 25, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 3 comments

    The sayings on the side of the Taylor's Acre barn just off of Fillmore Street near Templeton Gap have been catching eyes since 1972 when they first one was painted. That tradition continues on even though Dessie Taylor, 82, here with one her donkeys Applejuice, finds it harder and harder to get around. "I love this place. I'll be here until they haul me away," said Taylor. She and her husband C. Bob bought their home in 1960 and lived there together until he died in 1996.

    For decades, Taylor’s Acre was a special corner of Colorado Springs near Fillmore Street and Templeton Gap Road.

    It was a tiny farm surrounded by the city. A place roosters crowed, drowned out by the roar of traffic to nearby fast-food joints, pawn shops and medical office buildings. A place where passers-by were greeted by donkeys Twinkle Star and Applejuice and words of inspiration painted on a barn.

    Applesauce enjoyed treats from neighbors who regularly visited the pasture at Fillmore Street and Templeton Gap Road.

    It was, to be precise, C. Bob and Dessie Taylor’s acre. It’s where they bought an old stone ranch house in 1960 and made it their home, raised their four boys and two daughters and where the kids raised hell with dance and pool parties.

    It was a place of refuge, too, when cancer struck Dessie in 1971, when tragedy claimed daughter Dessie Bob in 1980 and then cancer took her beloved C. Bob in 1996 after 56 years of marriage.

    I met Dessie in August 2002, sitting  under her cottonless cottonwood tree. The matriarch of the Taylor clan was 82 then and melancholy.

    This was the view of Taylor's Acre looking east from the front sidewalk. In 2002, I found Dessie sitting under a tree. The family painted murals on the barn, visible behind the trees. Plans call for a medical building to be built where the barn sits. The house will make way for a parking lot.

    I was curious about the big sign on the barn which declared: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Quickly I discovered the barn was just one of many signs that punctuated Dessie’s life.

    As I walked to the gate, I was greeted by a small “Taylor’s Acre” sign.

    Then “No Trespassing.”

    And “Absolutely no city inspectors.”

    Finally: “No Bibles.”

    They were no-nonsense directives. Kind of like Dessie.

    I asked about the barn and learned it was painted each summer with a new musing, proverb or exhortation.

    The first went up in 1972 after Dessie survived a brain tumor even though doctors had given her just weeks to live. The clan threw a party and painted the barn: “We are proud to be Americans.”

    The tradition was born.

    Each year, the barn’s message changed, kind of the way the spider saved Wilbur the pig in “Charlotte’s Web.”

    But we all know how the classic childrens’ book ended . . . Charlotte died.

    Now, Taylor’s Acre is dying, as well.

    These are blueprints for a medical building to replace Taylor's Acre.

    Twinkle Star died years ago. In 2009, Dessie died too. She’d spent years of loneliness rattling around on her acre, longing for C. Bob and her children, now scattered.

    Applejuice went to live on a farm in Fountain and the farmhouse was cleaned out of all her figurines with the words of love she gave C. Bob. Gone, too, are her ceramic turtles, C. Bob’s treasured rock collection and all the family photos.

    There’s little to remind anyone of all the life that occurred on Taylor’s Acre.

    Soon, nothing will be left. The property is for sale and plans call for a medical office building. (Here’s a link to the application filed with the city’s Land Use Review office.)

    The little acre Dessie and C. Bob created and fought to preserve when city annexation came in 1980 soon will disappear. Like them.

    .

    It makes the barn’s final painting so appropriate.

    .

    It’s painted in a sunset  and inscribed: “Vaya con Dios.”

    .

    Go with God, indeed.

    The final mural on the Taylor's Acre barn reads "Vaya con Dios"

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  • 81-YEAR-OLD MRS. SMITH AND HER BAD HIP CAN PARK IN THE ALLEY!

    Sun, September 18, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Harold and Phyllis Smith met in Victor, where she grew up the daughter of a gold miner in Winfield Scott Stratton‘s Independence and Cresson mines.  

    They married in 19445 and moved to Colorado Springs where he worked as a mortician and then laying wood floors. She worked at Penrose Hospital for years.  

    In the mid-1950s, they built a house on the north edge of town on Parker Street and raised two daughters. Harold and Phyllis lived there 50-plus years until his death in 2010.  

    Phyllis Smith, 81, is upset with a city plan to turn Parker Street into a dead end, leaving her and another neighbor stranded on a narrow access road, unable to even park in front of their homes.

     

    Under the city plan, unveiled at a recent public meeting, Parker Street would become a cul de sac and Chestnut Street would veer west, bypassing a dangerous intersection at Fillmore Street and Interstate 25. Two houses beyond the end of Parker would access their homes by a narrow road.

     

    The tidy little house is full of memories. But Phyllis is ready to sell it to the city and let it be torn down rather than suffer through what city engineers have planned for her.  

    .  

    Engineers want to re-route Chestnut Street to bypass a dangerous intersection at Fillmore Street and Interstate 25.  

    .  

     The plan, as outlined by city engineers at a recent neighborhood meeting, calls for five houses to be bought and removed on the east side of Parker to allow Chestnut to swing west. It will cross Fillmore at a new traffic signal and jog back to the east to reconnect with its original alignment.  

    .  

    Parker, meanwhile, will become a long dead end — a cul de sac in fancy terms.  

    .  

     That’s bad enough.  

    .  

     Even worse is what the plan would do to Mrs. Smith and her next-door neighbors, Ruth and Joe Wagner.  

    .  

    Both houses will sit beyond the end of Parker. To reach their driveway, the Wagners will drive past Mrs. Smith’s home on a tiny access road.  

    .  

    To reach her garage on the alley behind her house, Phyllis Smith, 81, must climb 19 stairs. She said it's too hard, especially after her broken hip and multiple surgeries. She can't get her groceries in the house or easily reach her car. So she parks in front of her house.

     

    Phyllis Smith loves her home, but she'd rather sell and let it be torn down than suffer through what the city has planned for her and Parker Street.

    xxx  

    Phyllis Smith's house on Parker Street. Next door, obscured by the spruce tree, is the home of Ruth and Joe Wagner. To get out of their gravel drive, the Wagners would have to back down the access road, past Mrs. Smith's house.

     

     

    Here's a rough map of the city's plan to reroute Chestnut Stree to bypass a dangerous intersection at Fillmore Street and Interstate 25. It involves buying and demolishing at least five houses on Parker Street and more on Chestnut.

     

    City Councilman Tim Leigh, who attended the meeting. He was not impressed with the engineers — “they seemed to be arrogant” — or their plan.
    .
    “I think it’s a horrible plan,” Leigh said. “They are trying to push a plan too quickly when they have better options. It’s government gone bad. It’s out of control. I’m going to try and stop it.”
    .
    Mike Chaves, acting city engineer, insists everyone is overreacting a tad.
    .
     “The meeting was to get peoples’ concerns so we can address them,” he said. “Nothing is final. We don’t have an exact plan.
    .

     “The drawings were rough and schematic. We’re going to make sure people have adequate access.”  

     Adequate for an 81-year-old with a bad hip, by gosh! 

    The five houses in the box on the right would be bought by the city and demolished while the two on the left would be left beyond the end of Parker Street, accessible by a narrow road and the alley.

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  • MESA SPRINGS WILL BE DOING THE PARKER STREET SHUFFLE

    Sun, July 17, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    I feel sorry for the folks in the modest Mesa Springs neighborhood. It’s boundaries, generally, are Fillmore Street on the north, Interstate 25 on the east, Uintah Street on the south and, eventually, Centennial Boulevard will be its western border once the extension is completed.

    And that’s the problem. Mesa Springs has lived with construction turmoil all around it for years.

    Mesa Springs is a small neighborhood west of Interstate 25, south of Fillmore Street and north of Uintah Street.

    It was at Ground Zero for the COSMIX expansion of I-25 and erection of a massive sound barrier wall. That project brought tons of extra traffic down its main drag, Chestnut Street, as commuters seeking to dodge construction went racing back and forth.

    Then the neighborhood’s character was changed with the addition of a major furniture store, which also added traffic volume to the area.

    On its western edge, it watched as bulldozers began carving in the extension of Centennial and construction of new homes. But that project lurched to a halt leaving the road unfinished and many empty houses.

    Now, it’s staring down the barrel of another major project. I call it the Parker Street Shuffle. The city is planning to close Chestnut at Fillmore. If you look at this aerial photo, you see why.

    It’s not a simple intersection. It’s a convoluted mess thanks to the entrance and exit ramps of I-25 which converage at the spot.

    Further complicating the dangerous intersection is the traffic trying to get in and out of two gas stations and the impact of motorists roaring down the steep incline of Fillmore from the west.

    The intersection has long needed to be rebuilt. The entire Fillmore bridge needs to come down, for that matter, and the ramps widened and lengthened.

    Anybody have a spare $50 million? Here’s a look at the entire mess from FlashEarth.com.

    Didn’t think so.

    And the city doesn’t have the $14.5 million it would take to bury Chestnut under Fillmore and keep it open.

    But thanks to the one-cent sales and use tax that funds the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, an extra $6.5 million exists to make changes at Chestnut.

    Here’s the preliminary plan: close Chestnut at Fillmore and build a bypass west around the nasty intersection via Parker, which becomes a long cul de sac. It will require buying a couple houses on Parker but the rest of the route will cross vacant land.

    This is the tentative design for the plan to close Chestnut Street at Fillmore Street and reroute it west via Parker Street.

    The Colorado Department of Transportation bought five houses on Chestnut a few years ago anticipating the eventual reconstruction of the Fillmore bridge.

    And today CDOT is negotiating to buy the two gas stations to clear the intersection altogether.

    The city expects to announce the date this week of a public meeting on the Parker Street Shuffle. If all goes well, construction could begin in the summer of 2012.

    Follow this link to a May 21, 2011, story by Debbie Kelley about the project.

    For the Oct. 3, 2010, paper, I wrote this column on Mesa Springs.

    Here’s a blog I wrote in October 2010 on the project.

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  • Aren’t You Glad You Don’t Live on Parker Street?

    Sun, October 3, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Just be glad you don’t live on Parker Street.

    The next couple years, life is going to change and folks there may not like it too much.

    It’s no fault of their own. They are just unlucky to live near a major traffic bottleneck where Fillmore Street intersects Chestnut and Interstate 25.

    It’s a mess. You can see the intersection below on FlashEarth.com:

    To address the nasty spider web of streets converging there, the city has conducted an extensive study of the corridor. Check it out at this link.

    On the web site, you’ll find links to seven alternatives considered by Colorado Springs traffic engineers. They run the gamut from simply widening Fillmore to six lanes to closing Chestnut Street to building a bypass to loop Chestnut traffic around the intersection.

    The engineers are leaning toward the design shown below in black. It is “Alternative 6″ and it involves building a bridge to carry Chestnut under Fillmore as well as a bypass over to Parker.

    To get help in deciding, the city’s traffic engineers want your opinion. They have posted a survey online and want you to let them know your thoughts.

    Here’s a link to the Fillmore Street Corridor Transit Study.

    If enough millions can be found to build the project, it would begin soon.

    Tim Roberts, senior transportation planner, said he hopes to have design work underway in 2011-12 and construction in 2013-14.

    There’s a sense of urgency because the city hopes to finance the bulk of the project with its share of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority sales tax revenue. The money the tax generates for capital improvements is scheduled to expire in 2014. The Fillmore project would be the last major project built with the funds.

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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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  • IS FILLMORE STREET BRIDGE LOSING ITS BEARINGS? OR IS IT JUST ME?

    Fri, June 26, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Side Streets reader, Jordan Strub, asked me if I’d ever noticed the Fillmore Street bridge.

    Specifically, he was curious about the underside of the bridge that carries Fillmore Street over Monument Creek just east of the interchange with Interstate 25.

    Here’s a look from www.FlashEarth.com:

    fillmoreflash

    Here’s a photo of the bridge taken by Side Streets reader Jordan Strub:

    fillmorerocker1

    In the photo, piers 2 and 3 are visible. And one of the tilting rocker bearing can be seen at the end of pier 3. The photo is looking south from the Pikes Peak Greenway trail.

    Here’s a closer look at the pier and its rocker bearings:

    fillmorerocker2

     Here’s an even closer look:

    rockerbvcloseup3

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    There are 18 rocker bearings on the two piers and they are in various stages of tilting. The worst are at 10 degrees on pier 3 while those on pier 2 measure at 5 degrees.

    Engineers with the Colorado Department of Transportation say the rocker bearings don’t need to be reset until the tilting reaches 15 degrees. Below is a view from the south.

    rockerbvcloseup21

    Resetting them is not eash. The bridge must be jacked up and the rockers placed precisely between the pier and girder to safely transfer the weight of the bridge.

    For you hard-core engineer-wanna-be types, here is a blueprint showing a rocker bearing on the right. This is from the CDOT Web site.

     

    This is a detail from a Colorado Department of Transportation blueprint of the bridge rocker bearings.

     CDOT bridge expert Jeff Anderson said the Fillmore Street bridge was built in 1961 and widened in 1971 and was known as bridge No. I-17-P. It was state-owned until 2007 when the city took ownership in a swap for Powers Boulevard.

    While it was CDOT property, it was  inspected every two years — like every bridge in the state, Anderson said. In it’s last state inspection on Nov. 29, 2006, the bridge was given an 83 sufficiency rating on a scale of 0-100. The deck rated a 6. The superstructure a 7 on a 0-10 scale.

    “That structure was still in good shape,” Anderson said, despite the tilting rocker bearings. Bridges must fall to a 50 sufficiency rating and be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete before they are replaced.

    Anderson attributed the tilting rockers to natural movement in the bridge. He said it shifted east, flush against the abutment. And pier 3 moved west during a flood years ago.

    Here’s a look at the east abutment. There is no gap. In fact, the railing above are smashed together.

    fillmoreabutment2

     

     

     

    Want to see what happens when rocker bearings fail?

    Here’s a photo from July 2005 when a rocker bearing supporting a ramp on Interstate 787 in Albany, N.Y., failed.

    rockerny

     

    The following is an excerpt from the August 3, 2005 edition of the Albany Times Union www.timesunion.com).

    “A routine bridge inspection nearly two years ago found serious problems with the bearings supporting a section of elevated highway that ruptured and dropped 2 feet last week.

    Yet, state transportation officials said they made no plans to fix the problems with the Empire State Plaza ramp before the next planned inspection this fall.

    The overall rating on the 24-section ramp that links Interstate 787 northbound with the plaza was set at 5, or generally “good,” on a scale of 1 to 7 in the November 2003 inspection report. A set of bearings atop the concrete pier where the break occurred, however, received a rating of just 2.

    “One of DOT’s top engineers said it’s now clear that the poorly rated rocker bearings, steel supports designed to accommodate weather-related expansions and contractions of bridge sections, could have been a factor.

    “There were some low-rated bearing elements that may have had something to do with this,” said George Christian, the chief structural engineer for the state Department of Transportation.

    “The set of poorly rated bearings was on the section of the ramp that remained atop the pier, sliding toward the section that tumbled from its bearings and nearly fell off. The group of bearings was rated so poorly because they were tipped at an unusually extreme angle, Christian said.

    “It was tilted, definitely, more than we would have expected it to be tilted for the conditions at the time of the inspection,” he said.”

    Ooops!

    Here’s the full text of my Side Streets column that appeared in the June 28, 2009, Gazette:

    Jordan Strub was riding his bicycle on the Pikes Peak Greenway trail when he looked up at the bridge carrying Fillmore Street high over the trail and Monument Creek.

    Between the horizontal steel girders of the bridge and the vertical concrete piers that rise from the creek bed is a series of stubby, rectangular steel supports – sort of like big shoe boxes – rounded on top and bottom.

    Strub noticed that many of the supports are no longer standing straight up and down. In fact, several are tilted at alarming angles.

    He wondered if it was an optical illusion because of the slanting bridge, which is lower on the east and rises to meet the west abutment.

    He wondered if the bridge, built in 1961 and widened in 1971, had been moving.

    He wondered if the bridge was safe.

    “I wondered ‘does anyone else ever notice things like this?’ ” said Strub.

    Turns out, they do. A number of people besides Strub have seen the twisting, tilting rockers and contacted the city over the years.

    But Strub had trouble reaching city engineers, so he contacted Side Streets – or, in this case, Side Bridges – and we got answers.

    “The bridge is stable and fine,” said Dan Krueger, a senior civil engineer in Colorado Springs’ engineering department.

    He explained that the tipping steel shoeboxes are called rocker bearings or panels. They were designed to rotate to compensate for movement in the bridge.

    In this case, Krueger said, the bridge slid east over the years and pier 3 shifted west in a flood years ago, causing the rockers to twist and tilt.

    Rockers were common on bridges of the era, although they were abandoned by engineers decades ago in favor of sliding teflon-coated steel plates and thick slabs of neoprene.

    Until 2007, the bridge was owned, inspected regularly and maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation. It noted the rocking rockers as early as 1998, said Jeff Anderson, who manages the CDOT’s bridge inspection program.

    “They look funny when they start to tilt,” he said.

    Funny? Scary might be a better word.

    Anderson said CDOT experts measured the rockers on pier 3 at a 10-degree slant. Pier 2 rockers tilt just 5 degrees. Rockers must reach 15 degrees before CDOT recommends taking action.

    “It’s safe,” Anderson said.

    So why not pull them out and straighten them up?

    “You have to jack up the bridge and reset the rockers to vertical,” Anderson said. “It’s not really very easy.”

    At one time, CDOT hoped to rebuild the Fillmore and Interstate 25 interchange and replace the bridge. But the money ran out so it sits.

    Despite CDOT’s assurance the rockers have not moved in years, city experts do a visual check every 90 days, and survey crews verify its stability every six months.

    “We’re just keeping an eye on it,” Krueger said. “We will monitor it indefinitely.”

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