The end date again has been pushed back for the $41 million construction project on West Colorado Avenue that’s become a more than two-year headache for drivers and businesses along the stretch.
The project, originally slated for completion in December, now is expected to be mostly done by late summer, said El Paso County Project Manager Brett Hartzell. Then crews will complete finishing touches, including landscaping and plaza work, for about a month, Hartzell said.
When completed, the four-lane West Colorado Avenue from 31st Street to U.S. 24 will be transformed into a two-lane span bisected by a center turn lane and lined with bike lanes, wide sidewalks and vintage streetlights.
Last fall, county officials said the project’s major components would be finished by late 2018, and impacts on traffic this year would be minimal.
In December, officials again said more time was needed, and the project would not be done until June.
Meanwhile, drivers are still enduring ever-changing lane restrictions and traffic barriers, and area merchants say they’ve suffered lags in business.
The county has blamed the delays on a variety of unexpected obstacles, from torrential rain last July to massive boulders that crews unearthed.
Construction workers also discovered asbestos that needed mitigation, hundreds of old tires buried along the banks of Fountain Creek, and aging utility lines.
“To this day, we still keep finding stuff underground that we did not foresee,” Hartzell said.
Negotiating with property owners also has been a “continuing battle,” Hartzell said. In some cases, the county had to go to court with property owners to obtain necessary easements, he said.
Meanwhile, the cost of the 1.5-mile project, known as the Westside Avenue Action Plan, has risen by about $10 million, from $31 million, since crews broke ground in late 2016. County officials say they always anticipated that increase because design plans weren’t complete at the start.
Most of the cost is being footed by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which levies a 1 percent sales tax within its boundaries, including Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Manitou Springs. Funding also is being provided by the Manitou Springs Urban Renewal Authority, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado Springs Utilities.
Crews still are installing a water line along a segment of West Colorado Avenue, Hartzell said, and work has yet to be finished on the Midland Trail, which is partially closed in the project area, and on the Adams Crossing Bridge over Fountain Creek at Columbia Road. Also not yet completed are two plazas, including one for bicyclists and pedestrians on Ridge Road.
Once the roadway and sidewalks are complete, he said, the remaining work shouldn’t have significant effects on traffic.
“With it being a construction project in an old area of town, there’s obviously a possibility of more delays, but we’re hopeful that we don’t find any more,” he said.
Beleaguered drivers shouldn’t expect relief anytime soon, however. State transportation officials broke ground Tuesday on an $11.5 million project to repave U.S. 24 from Eighth Street to the Waldo Canyon entrance. CDOT hopes to limit lane closures along the stretch to nighttime hours, but drivers still will see some effects on traffic during the day, officials said.