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Voter-approved roads repair tax getting the job done, Colorado Springs officials report

August 24, 2017 Updated: August 24, 2017 at 7:24 pm
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Crews with Schmidt Construction Company pave a portion of Foxridge Drive near Monica Drive West Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The project marks the beginning of 2017 paving operations funded by the voter-supported Ballot Item 2C. 224 lane miles are scheduled for paving in this, the second year of 2C. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Recalling a recent conversation, City Councilman Merv Bennett said some people joke that Pikes Peak has been replaced as Colorado Springs' most prominent landmark. Now, it's orange traffic cones.

The ubiquitous cones marking detours around street work are a result of construction funded by 2C, a ballot issue approved by voters in November 2015 dedicating $250 million evenly split over five years to repair the city's crumbling streets, curbs and gutters.

In its second year, work funded by 2C is under budget and ahead of schedule, Public Works Director Travis Easton said Thursday in a quarterly update. And revenues from the 0.62 percent sales tax are higher than last year.

Through June 30, the tax has generated $20.1 million, 12.9 percent higher than last year at the six-month mark, said Corey Farkas the city's streets program supervisor. The city collected about $51 million in 2016.

Roadwork is also up for the year, Farkas said. In 2016, 229 lane miles were paved through the tax. This year, the city has finished 137 lane miles and is on track to complete 238 by October.

Much of the work is long overdue, and is scheduled for streets that wee the subject of frequent complaints, Farkas said.

"We've done a lot of work on Woodmen, which was in bad shape from Lexington all the way out to Black Forest. It's a wonderful road to drive on right now," he said. "We've also fixed Lake Avenue from I-25 all the way west. That was in really bad shape."

Not everyone might be satisfied by the pace of construction, which often is slowed by having to coordinate work being done by different contractors and Colorado Springs Utilities, Farkas said.

"We don't want to pave a road where Utilities has bad waterlines underneath and a waterline blows and we're digging up new roads to replace their bad infrastructure," he said.

Las Vegas Street was one street that required coordination, Farkas said, because a portion of the street is in front of the Springs Rescue Mission, which is expanding soon. To prevent having to cut through a newly paved street to connect underground utilities, the street work was pushed back from 2018 to 2019.

When voters passed 2C they approved a specific list of streets where about 1,000 lane miles worth of work will be done, Farkas said. All of those projects will be finished by 2020, when the tax ends. And there will likely be enough money left over to fund another batch of projects.

The tax also frees up other city funds that Public Works taps, Easton said, allowing it to better maintain streets that aren't due for makeovers.

Farkas said five years of 2C work won't cure all the city's traffic ailments, but it's a step in the right direction. He said he'd like to see the tax continued for a second round to fix more of the city's 5,691 lane miles of streets.

A full list of ongoing and completed public works projects for 2017, which include 2C projects, can be found at www.coloradosprings.gov/publicworks.

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