A small sinkhole that appeared in Manitou Avenue Monday revealed major damage to a century-old concrete box culvert that, if not repaired or replaced, could lead to a collapse of the roadway. Colorado Department of Transportation engineers spent Tuesday evaluating the extent of the damage to the culvert, which funnels Ruxton Creek underneath Ruxton Avenue and Manitou Avenue, directing the water toward Fountain Creek as it flows through Soda Springs Park.
"What this is is wear and tear over the years," said CDOT Resident Engineer Dave Watt. "We’ve had recent rains that probably exacerbated that problem." Watt says repairs or a replacement for the structure will likely cost millions of dollars and result in an extended full closure of Manitou Avenue immediately west of the roundabout intersection with Ruxton Avenue. "This could be months," Watt said. "We’d certainly prefer it be weeks, but we’re still in the conditions of looking at an interim fix."
The closure dramatically affects access to Manitou Avenue west of Ruxton Avenue. Drivers coming from the east must detour onto Cañon Avenue and Park Avenue to be able to access areas west of the closure. Drivers coming from the west, including U.S. Highway 24 and Serpentine Drive, must drive around barricades to access businesses east of Park Avenue.
"I’m definitely going to see an impact in regard to my business because of the limited accessibility," said Josh Stelly, operator of Craft, a crafting studio at 1107 Manitou Avenue. "People are going to come from the main exit and come through town and then be forced, at the roundabout, to turn around and leave without actually occupying or entertaining these businesses down here."
Teri Umstead, a cashier at Tubby’s Turnaround convenience story at Manitou Avenue and Park Avenue, also worries about the impact to businesses west of the closure. "I would like to see that they do put a sign down there saying more open businesses this way, so that at least there’s that attention that people know that we’re still here," Umstead said.
Manitou Springs mayor Ken Jaray points out that no businesses are closed and no parking spaces are unavailable due to the closure, that access to the Manitou Incline is unaffected for drivers coming from downtown Manitou Springs, and that the free shuttle service through town is unaffected by the closure. "You can get around our town, it’s just a little bit more challenging," Jaray said. "It’s not dire. We have a small section of Manitou Avenue that’s closed, all of the other businesses are open, pedestrian access is the same, so we’re just trying to encourage people still to come to Manitou, be patient with a little bit of a detour, and enjoy yourself."