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New Pikes Peak Summit House a go, shuttles to drive visitors to top

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Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday gave the official go-ahead to funding to begin construction this summer of a new summit house on Pikes Peak.  Council members voted unanimously to reappropriate $13.5 million in the reserve fund of the city-run Pikes Peak-America's Mountain enterprise to the project fund for construction.

Construction on the new summit house complex is expected to last three to four years.  The new complex will replace the current summit house, which has stood since 1960.  Construction will force the closure of roughly half of the mountain-top parking lot, leaving only about 100 parking spaces at any given time.  With the indefinite closure of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, it's expected nearly a quarter million drivers will try to drive to the summit per year.  To help alleviate that surge in vehicle traffic, Pikes Peak-America's Mountain's manager says a mandatory shuttle service will be implemented.

Drivers heading up Pikes Peak Highway will pay the access fee as usual at the toll plaza, which will be additionally staffed to handle the increased traffic.  They will then park either at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb pit area at the 7-mile mark or at Devil's Playground above timberline.  Manager Jack Glavan says he anticipates around 30 to 35 shuttles seating 15 to 24 passengers each will make pick-ups and drop-offs every hour.  "Our goal is no longer than a 5-minute wait if we can do that," Glavan said.  The shuttle service would be free, paid for with the $13.5 million in reappropriated funds.

Some personal vehicles will be allowed to drive directly to the summit, bypassing the shuttles.  Vehicles carrying persons with disabilities or children seated in car seats would get the go-ahead to proceed.  It is unclear whether motorcyclists will be able to proceed to the summit or be required to take the shuttle.  Glavan says individual bikes may be allowed to proceed, but large groups of motorcyclists traveling together would likely be required to use the shuttle.

Glavan says the shuttle program will be temporary, lasting only during the construction process, unless visitors indicate they enjoy the service, in which case it may stay.

The $13.5 million in reappropriated funds will only pay for the initial stages of construction.  It's estimated an additional $36.5 million will be required to complete the project.  "What we're looking at is bonding and we're working with our finance department and a bonding agent to determine exactly how much we can bond, and then we're hoping for private/public donations to kind of fill in the rest of that money," Glavan said.

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