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Businesses near Manitou Springs slowly bouncing back from construction, pandemic effects

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- It's been a difficult 3 1/2 years for businesses, drivers and neighbors along a 1.5-mile corridor between Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs, formerly known as "No Man's Land."

A major renovation project called the Westside Avenue Action Plan brought improvements to the long-neglected area between 31st Street and U.S. 24, where Colorado Avenue and Manitou Avenue meet.

But the project, which officially started in January 2017 and was scheduled for completion in two years, was plagued with delays and wasn't declared officially finished until a ribbon-cutting ceremony last November.

Since then, remaining work has continued and still wasn't completed as of an April update on the project's website, which also stated that final work was to be completed by Memorial Day weekend.

On Tuesday, an El Paso County official said that the remaining work will be finished soon and more funding may be required.

There also was a significant cost overrun, as delays and required additional work pushed the project's cost from $31 million to $43 million, officials confirmed Tuesday.

Money from the voter-approved Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority tax financed the project.

Although the project has a wide range of support, it hurt businesses along the strip financially as customers found traveling through the area difficult. Some businesses owners said they lost money for three years during their busiest seasons -- summer and the Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping holidays.

The current COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed the ability of affected merchants to recover from the long construction period.

Farley McDonough, owner of the Adam's Mountain Cafe, is familiar with financial turmoil. She moved from her original location in downtown Manitou Springs because of flooding after the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire.

"On average, we're down about 60% right now, compared to the past four years," she said.  "And that's with the construction.  So compared to some of our best years, we're down even more than that.  But we've cut a lot of expenses." 

McDonough said July is her busiest month and customers are gradually returning.

"Because of the virus we're only at 50% capacity," she said. "But we're doing better than we were. In some ways, this is all a mixed blessing because we've learned how to cut back and still be able to operate a business."

Unexpected obstacles such as large boulders, old utility and rail lines and hundreds of old tires underground, contributed to the delays. Officials also had to acquire more private property than planned.

The project eliminates a lane of traffic in each direction but adds bike lanes, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, street lights and landscaping. A new bridge over Fountain Creek is another addition, along with an improved connection to the Midland Trail.

However, a small section of the trail off Ridge Road remains unconnected.

Officials believe the project will provide a natural and scenic connection between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs -- a connection that is more important with recent growth in tourism and local population.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

Comments

1 Comment

  1. I think it was the general contractor who was the problem. They delayed and delayed and installed shotty work that had to be redone. I remember the water line they went to “commission” and it right away had 6 breaks and leaks…………

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