When the fall semester starts in August, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ main campus on Austin Bluffs Parkway will connect to the expanding west campus along North Nevada Avenue via a new two-lane road with bike lanes.
The CU system’s Board of Regents approved construction of the new link at a meeting in Denver last week.
“It’s a great idea,” said UCCS student Mary Ellen Davis. “It will give better, easier access to the campus and make it a more cohesive unit.”
The new road is expected to relieve traffic congestion at Austin Bluffs Parkway and North Nevada Avenue, which some students and staff say takes two to three light cycles to move through during rush hours.
“We’re hoping it’s a faster and safer way to get between the two main parts of campus,” said UCCS spokesman Jared Verner.
“We’ve grown so rapidly on the west side, and we know there’s a lot of people going back and forth and wasting a lot of time sitting in traffic.”
Students and staff have had to schedule classes to allow for enough time to travel the roughly 2 miles or more on the 550-acre campus, he said.
The 12 university shuttle buses that continuously shuttle students and staff back and forth also will use the new road.
The buses make about 700 trips a day between the campuses, said Mike Chaves, city engineering manager.
The development comes after a dispute over increased traffic on Stanton Road, which runs from North Nevada Avenue through the Eagle Rock neighborhood and onto the west end of the UCCS campus.
Neighbors complained that with burgeoning construction on North Nevada Avenue, too many motorists were using their quiet street as a back way between the campuses.
“I was terrified before,” said Linn Green, whose family owns a house on Stanton Road. “People were flying through our street.”
The new street, named Spine Road for now, likely will be renamed for a more Mountain Lion feel, as students suggested during a brainstorming session, Verner said. Students also asked for bike lanes, which will be included, he said.
Bids went out as soon as the regents approved the project, with completion scheduled for July, he said.
The street will stretch 3,100 feet and connect to Stanton Road near a gravel parking lot known as 540, behind dorms at the main campus.
The road will wind diagonally northwest down a hillside of vacant university-owned land, cross an arroyo and intersect with a roundabout at the Ent Center.
UCCS will split the $2 million cost with the city of Colorado Springs.
“We’re expecting our contribution to be capped at $1 million,” Chaves said, “and we could not make substantial intersection improvements at Austin Bluffs and Nevada for that amount. We’d have to make a far greater investment.”
The city money could come from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, he said.
Although it’s an internal campus road, it will be a public street that the city will maintain.
The Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences was the first building to open on the west campus in February 2014. UCCS opened the Ent Center for Performing Arts in January 2018.
Mountain Lion Stadium also is along the corridor, and a baseball field will celebrate its grand opening March 2 during a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener against Regis University.
The under-construction William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center, scheduled to open in April 2020, is expected to further increase traffic in the area.
About 2,000 vehicles were using Stanton Road daily, Chaves said, as the Ent Center and Lane Center have classrooms as well as public programs.
In August, despite some student protests, the city erected a gate that makes Stanton Road a dead-end street.
The gate will remain in place after the new road is built, Chaves said.
“It helps protect the integrity of the neighborhood,” he said. “The road wasn’t meant to accommodate that type of volume.”
Neighbors are happy about that.
“It’s a whole other neighborhood now. It’s quiet, and we’re safer,” Green said. “We’re also excited about the new road.”
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