Somebody made a smart decision this week regarding the itinerary of a special tour for media and public officials regarding the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority’s renewal on the November ballot.
Everyone knew the basic plan, understandably, was to visit a handful of locations for capital projects that would be funded in the 2014-2024 time frame by PPRTA II.
But just to make sure the group came away with more substance, the tour also included several success stories from the first PPRTA package. Topping that list were the Woodmen Road-Academy Boulevard interchange and the Union Boulevard-Austin Bluffs Parkway interchange, both of which solved thorny traffic-flow crises for Colorado Springs.
Sure, the fruits of the first PPRTA have spread further around the area, but for anyone who might need convincing of how effective the concept has been since its initial passage in 2004, those two high-profile accomplishments serve as Exhibits A and B.
With two years remaining and work still ongoing with revenues from the first 10-year sales tax, organizers led by attorney Dan Stuart, CH2MHill executive Dirk Draper and Council of Neighbors and Organizations president Dave Munger don’t want to wait until the last minute for PPRTA II. With help from residents and area governments, they’ve put together a second batch of projects that would commence in 18 months with no loss in momentum.
As quickly became obvious on that tour, the PPRTA encore doesn’t have the same kind of sexy marquee projects, though the organizers have made sure to address needs in different sections of the city. To the northwest, there’s the extension of Centennial Boulevard southward to connect with Interstate 25 at the Fontanero interchange, relieving the burden on the nearby Fillmore exit. Further east, there’s improving the heavily congested Woodmen-Union intersection. Then to the Westside and Manitou, there’s a plan to deal with the mess known as No Man’s Land.
Otherwise, large elements of PPRTA II will focus on fixing unseen problems before they fester into far worse emergencies. The tour group saw the most alarming example — the fast-deteriorating bridge on South Circle Drive over Hancock. It’s a major traffic artery connecting the south and southeast parts of the city, and that bridge has no nearby alternate route. So when you stand underneath it and see the corrosion, rust and crumbling cement, even exposing rebar in places, you realize how it could turn into a serious mess if the bridge suddenly had to be closed (similar to the Cimarron bridge east of I-25 several years ago).
Replacing bridges that still might seem functional won’t impress the masses, which is why the PPRTA II backers are working on those public officials (and, yes, the media). The tour group included Chamber/EDC president and CEO Joe Raso, an indication that the need for better infrastructure is a selling point on many levels, including the effort to attract more companies to Colorado Springs.
It’s obvious that nobody’s taking the PPRTA II ballot issue for granted, and that’s a positive first step toward helping it become reality.