Manitou businesses brace for disruption from bridge repair

Posted at 7:21 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 21:21:09-04

Businesses in Manitou Springs are bracing for a difficult summer. A road construction project to repair a historic bridge is dragging on longer than expected. An earlier repair to the Park Avenue bridge over Fountain Creek left a tall concrete hump in the road that is pretty much impassable. The soonest the contractor, H.W. Houston Construction can pull get together the necessary permits from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Pikes Peak Regional Building Office is July 2. 

The bridge is located right at the western edge of Soda Springs Park, about 800 feet from the Penny Arcade. Owner Alan Kerns knows how important parking is for business.

"Most people want to park pretty close to where they’re going to shop, come in, spend their money, and go home," he said.

Kerns never really cared for the City’s paid parking system and the neighborhood permit program. He’s concerned the construction project coming right in the middle of tourism season could impact on the town’s economy.

"My business has been okay, but I am still concerned about the retail sales tax and not bringing it in," Kerns said.

Just across the street, restaurant owner Matt Gray wants to keep it as easy as possible for hungry customers to come enjoy burritos and margaritas at The Loop. He expects the construction to hurt businesses.

"In defense of the City Council and the mayor, they’re taking over a horrible, horrible situation," Gray said. "They’re trying to solve it to the best of their ability. Although, I would’ve done it entirely differently."

Interim City Administrator Malcolm Fleming explained that the bridge was supposed to be finished back in February. As it became clear that the hump would be impassable, they tried to work with the engineering contractor F&D International to try and resolve the issue. However, those negotiations were unsuccessful. They’ve since engaged a different engineering firm to fix and oversee the bridge project.

In anticipation of the impact on businesses, Fleming said City crews have repainted around 20 on-street parking spaces and negotiated a temporary agreement with the Timberline Baptist Church to provide another 45 public spaces.

Kerns had another suggestion, institute a month-long parking holiday.

"I’ve asked that they suspend that at least until the bridges are done," he said.

Gray called that idea awesome.

Construction is expected to last 3 weeks. Fleming said the City explored a temporary fix to make the bridge functional before Memorial Day by paving ramps on both sides of the hump.

"Unfortunately, there is a potential for heavy truck traffic to damage temporary pavement and lead to additional expense as well as create a safety hazard," he said.?