The Colorado Springs Planning Commission voted Thursday to recommend changes to the comprehensive plan and intermodal transportation plan that could lead to upgrades in transportation and infrastructure along South Academy Boulevard to revitalize the area.
The commission voted unanimously to recommend the Great Streets program to City Council for approval, but only after discussing the costs of many of the recommendations. For instance, the program suggested burying power lines at a cost of $3 million for every mile, and installing a trolley system, which would cost $20 million a mile.
Carl Schueler, city project manager, said the city will only be able to approve commercial development close to the roadway and promote projects to draw high concentrations of shoppers along the six-miles stretch. He also said the city will discourage development that won’t bring people, like mini-warehouses or industrial use.
Ultimately, the city will have to bury power lines if it wants to make it more inviting to both residents and commercial development.
Commissioner Janet Suthers questioned the need to bury power lines, and said she didn’t understand how Academy, which was once a successful commercial zone, had fallen so far.
Simply improving the aesthetics would make the corridor more enticing, Schueler answered.
“Arterial suburban strips don’t do well in that old concept,” he said. “And Academy was wildly successful, but it petered out toward the south. It was never very successful in the south.”
Craig Blewit with Mountain Metropolitan Transit told the commissioners that a robust transportation system along the corridor would be a key to revitalizing it. He said his committee ruled out the possibility of a lightrail system in that area,and suggested that a fixed-rail trolley might eventually be an option.
Due to the high cost of the project, he recommended an express bus service. But, he said, the city should expand existing public transportation first because South Academy has some of the most popular bus routes.
“I think it’s a diversion to get into any kind of fixed-rail discussion right now,” said Commissioner Robert Shonkwiler. “Buses give us the greatest flexibility and the biggest bang for our buck.”