Apr 23, 2014 1:13 AM by Maddie Garrett

"No Man's Land" No More: Westside Ave Project Underway

A stretch of road known as "no man's land" in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs is getting a new name and a new look. It's called the Westside Avenue Action Plan (WAAP), and the hope is to bring better transportation, safety and economic growth along Business Highway 24.

The plan is in its second phase, with a mile and a half of construction and safety improvements planned along Colorado Avenue and Manitou Avenue, starting at 31st Street up to the US 24 interchange.

The stretch of road is the link between Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs.

"It's a tourist corridor, it's important," said Katie Getz, who lives nearby.

But some would say it's a broken link.

"I haven't really seen any type of work being done on the sidewalks, the streets," said Melissa Salazar, who drives the avenue several times a day.

Getz agreed, "I mean the road has been crappy for a while now."

But the wheels are finally spinning on the Westside Avenue Action Plan, the project was just approved and designs are now being made to improve the avenue.

"With this project it'll hopefully do a lot of reviving of interest on the west side," said Project Manager, Andre Brackin.

Bike lanes and sidewalks are going in where there are currently none. The plan will also change the road from four lanes to three, with the middle lane serving as a turn lane, the same set up Manitou Springs has now.

"To have that one lane and the turn lane, I think this right here is really busy, I don't think that's going to work," Salazar questions.

But Getz said while she thinks it might slow down traffic, she likes the idea of the new design.

"I think that'll probably look nice if it's like Manitou," she said.

The biggest shift of the project, the bridge at Columbia. It's going to be moved about 50 feet north of its current location, shifting the whole street over.

"We have to rebuild a bridge," said Brackin.

The current bridge was built in 1934 and is in disrepair, and unable to handle a serious event, like a 100 year flood. The new bridge will be wider, stronger and raise the road five feet in order to handle severe flooding of Fountain Creek. It will also have walkways on top and connect the Midland Trail below it.

"That's probably the biggest feature of the project, the location of the new bridge and shifting Fountain Creek," said Brackin. "It's going to be a huge challenge."

It also puts the new bridge on the Garden of the Gods RV Resort's property.

"It's going to take a quarter acre from us, basically wipe out our main entrance and main exit," said Resort General Manager, Ian Horgan.

But Horgan says he's not angry about the project. In fact, he's been working closely with the county, CDOT, Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs on the project.

"We see some benefits in the long run," responded Horgan.

He admits the construction will create difficulties and could hurt business. But he believes in the long run, the improvements will be worth it and benefit the Resort, especially with the proximity to Fountain Creek and new bike lanes and walk ways.

"We're just looking aesthetically for this to really increase our curb appeal and also the curb appeal for the avenue," he explained.

The total cost of the project is about $15 million, with just over $12 million of it coming from tax-payer approved dollars from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. Construction is expected to start in late 2015.



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