There are still more questions than answers following a town hall conversation Tuesday night between several government agencies and concerned residents in Ute Pass regarding traffic.
El Paso County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf hosted the town hall to launch a discussion and provide details on short-term relief efforts to alleviate concerns along Highway 24. The issue, which was only compounded by the closure of the Cog Railway, will likely require a long-term fix with more research, time and money.
VanderWerf was joined by representatives from the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol and Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, which are all working to implement small-term fixes to this summer’s anticipated traffic issues.
"There’s been a lot of traffic here to go up the Pikes Peak Highway, and with the closure of the Cog, it’s going to be probably tens of thousands of vehicles that will be added to last year’s traffic," VanderWerf said.
Last year, the Cog took nearly 300,000 visitors to the top of America’s Mountain.
Now that the iconic railway is closed, there is fear among residents and business owners that people still trying to visit Pikes Peak will now use Pikes Peak Highway — creating an even larger traffic mess through Ute Pass.
But as Eric Caldwell, a Green Mountain Falls resident that voiced his opinion at Tuesday’s meeting, told the gathered agencies, the traffic problem happened well before the closure of the Cog.
"Well I feel like they didn’t start planning last year when they should have as much as they could, because we had problems with traffic backing up to Manitou last year," Caldwell said. "And some of their ideas seemed great, but I don’t feel like they thought a lot out of the box. They just tried to do the same thing they’ve always done."
Those agencies are already implementing dozens of changes in an effort to speed up traffic.
At Pikes Peak, employees will now staff all three entry gates, which now have enhanced technology to speed up transactions. CDOT told Tuesday’s crowd it is postponing a number of previously planned projects along Highway 24 as not to contribute to the traffic.
A lot of discussion focused on the intersection of Highway 24 and Fountain Avenue. El Paso County engineers said they will improve the intersection by adding more effective signage and striping on the road to help direct motorists.
Still, some residents say the traffic problems will persist.
"From Green Mountain Falls, it’s a 12-and-a-half, 13-mile trip, but it’s gonna take forever," said David Pearlman, who lives and owns a business in Green Mountain Falls. "It’s going to be a problem."
With tourism season already underway, Ute Pass locals are already planning to pad their commutes, as more visitors come to Colorado.
"The best answer to that is to do absolutely the best we can to reduce the traffic congestion so that the road can be used effectively, and then the businesses will thrive, and then the residents, it’s easier for them to get in and out of the community," VanderWerf said.
Several residents told News 5 they came to Tuesday’s meeting for an update on the status of the Cog Railway. That update wasn’t not given, but The Broadmoor told News 5’s Sam Kraemer they are still coordinating a trip for European experts to come and perform a full assessment on the railway.
Additionally, the agencies established a central contact for all information relating to Ute Pass traffic. Anyone looking for information can call 719-628-8028 to learn more.