Residents and businesses along the stretch of West Colorado Avenue bridging Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City can look forward to weekly briefings on the corridor's ongoing transformation.
El Paso County's new social media specialist has begun posting regular updates to Facebook on a $30 million effort to revitalize a 1.5-mile span of the street from 31st Street to U.S. 24 - a stretch known as "No Man's Land" because it straddles Colorado Springs and its neighbor to the west but belongs to neither.
The project, called the Westside Avenue Action Plan, is slated for completion in late 2018.
Since crews broke ground in December, much of the work so far has focused on replacing and rerouting utility lines before above-ground construction can proceed, according to Greg Dingrando, who started working for the county last month.
The result - ever-changing lane restrictions and traffic detours - has become a source of frustration for the 75 businesses that line the corridor and the thousands of drivers that pass through the area each day.
"It's inconvenient, and it does have an impact on business," said Farley McDonough, owner of Adam's Mountain Cafe at 26 Manitou Ave., adding that the weekly updates will help her make staffing and food supply decisions. "In business, you've got to have real-time information if you're going to survive these kinds of things."
Dingrando, a former KOAA News 5 anchor and reporter, plans to break each update into two segments: a review of the progress crews made in the past week, published on Fridays, and a look ahead to the next week's work, posted on Mondays. His first update went live on June 11.
In the latest update, roughly five minutes long, county project manager Dennis Barron tells Dingrando that progress this week will include connecting a new water line to an existing one near the Loaf N' Jug at 137 Manitou Ave. and continuing construction on a storm sewer to Fountain Creek. Barron also touches on traffic impacts and the handful of businesses whose water service will be temporarily affected by the work.
Last week, crews experienced a hiccup when a water main was not properly shut off, according to another recent video update. Old and poorly charted utility lines have become unanticipated roadblocks, Dingrando said.
Underground boulders - some of them as large as cars - have also proved unexpected obstacles, as crews must have special equipment to remove them, Dingrando said.
But no challenge has been formidable enough to delay the project's estimated completion date, he said.
West Side Action Plan efforts reached a milestone last month when crews razed the Sunflower Motel at 3703 West Colorado Avenue. The demolition of the dilapidated lodge cleared the way for the new Adams Crossing bridge, which will be built over Fountain Creek and allow the Midland Trail to extend from Manitou Springs and through Old Colorado City, eventually reaching America the Beautiful Park downtown.
Crews will continue work on water lines until late summer, when they will shift gears to upgrade stormwater infrastructure, Dingrando said. The project will transform the four-lane stretch of road into a two-lane avenue bisected by a center turn lane and lined with bike lanes, widened sidewalks, upgraded curbs, new gutters and historic streetlights. Local taxpayers are funding the bulk of the effort through the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which is contributing $24.1 million. The PPRTA collects a 1 percent sales tax in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Ramah. A little more than half of the revenue pays for voter-approved capital projects such as the Westside Avenue Action Plan. The rest of the project is paid for by other agencies and entities, including the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Springs Utilities and Manitou Springs.
CDOT's completion of another project just west of the plan's boundaries will help to relieve traffic in the area, according to Michelle Peulen, a spokeswoman for the agency's southeast region. This week, CDOT will finish a $2.4 million overlay project on two stretches of road, each less than a mile long, west of the U.S. 24/Manitou Avenue interchange.
Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108