County pushes out decision on transportation priority list

April 10, 2012

Chalk up one for the outdoor types. Trails and Open Space Coalition representatives persuaded El Paso County commissioners on Tuesday to put off a vote on prioritizing road improvements.

They want commissioners to reconsider putting non-motorized projects — bicycle and hiking trails — on the priority list they will eventually submit to the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.

After PPRTA approves lists from the county and its other members, including Colorado Springs, the list is expected to go on the November ballot as part of a tax measure. If voters approve the measure, those transportation projects would take priority for the next 10 years.

The county’s list was supposed to be presented at PPRTA’s public meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments.

“Even if we had approved the resolution for the priority list, it would’ve been with the understanding that we could make minor changes,” said commissioner Dennis Hisey, who is chairman of the PPRTA. “Even now, with the postponement, any changes we make will be minor.”

Changes could be made until August, Hisey said, when attorneys will craft the ballot measure.

TOSC supporters want their piece of the county’s financial pie to build new trails and connections, although they agree that road and bridge projects should take priority, said TOSC Advocacy Director Bill Koerner.

Richard Skorman, former Colorado Springs City Council member and mayoral candidate, followed Koerner to the microphone at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m not sure why we need to rush on this,” Skorman said. “Trails were on the (county’s) list until taken off in February. There needs to be more public discussion, especially when this will be the list for 10 years.”

Commissioners argued there has been plenty of public discussion but eventually passed a motion to table the resolution on the priority list until May 1.

County Engineer Andre’ Brackin, who will speak to the PPRTA board, said a $2 million cushion is built into the county’s priority list. That could pay for several new trails or trail connections, as well as some maintenance.

Commissioner Peggy Littleton asked Koerner to detail the cost of more than half-a-dozen new trails he proposed, so commissioners can make a more astute decision on where to spend money.

“There’s only so much to go around,” said commissioner Sallie Clark. “Transit is also included in this. It’s a balancing act.”

Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens
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