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.

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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.

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Amber Baillie
A Colorado native, Amber Baillie graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. For over three years, she wrote for the Air Force Academy's official base newspaper and has written articles for Your Boulder and the Cheyenne and Woodmen Editions. For the Business Journal, she covers cyber, aerospace and defense, and nonprofit news.
  • Jocko

    Right now, there are two many people in this town that are out of work or underemployed. We need to worry about how people are able to afford the high local property and business taxes that we are burdened with as well how they can continue feeding and clothing their families and pay their rents. With the state’s high gas and other taxes and the draconian increases in business fees, people will continue moving out of the area, and we will see more and more businesses closing their doors.

    It is really sad how many long term businesses in this town have closed. If you ask around, you wil find the town that was becoming internationally famous as Silicon Mountain has now reduced those high tech gurus to running hand to mouth small businesses. And those small businesses are not surviving.

    I have a business and I have cut staff by 50%. With 70-80 hour weeks, and hourly contractors at lower wages, we have managed to stay open.

    What we can’t afford is the schools coming around again looking for another tax hike to pay teachers more that are already well compensated with money and benefits or more gas taxes to build better freeways in Denver, or a continuation of the PPRA which is way too high as it is. Local governments need to bite the bullet and cut back to the essentials like the rest of the population has had to. Our citizens are not buying goods and services because they are paying for too many well paid, well benefited government workers. Just remember, government produces nothing and has no multiplying effects in the economy. The disastrous Federal Stimulus Programs proved that because after the billions upon billions spent, the economy and job situation is worse then ever.

    The government does us a real disservice and does major CYA in only reporting those drawing unemployment checks and not the real numbers of unemployed that are beyond unemployment and underemployed like engineers running sign shops. Instead 8+%, that number is between 20-30% by multiple estimates.

    In three words, the answer is, “NO MORE TAXES”, until we get America running again as a market economy.