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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.”