Two lanes of West Colorado Avenue at the Adams Crossing bridge construction site will be open during the Memorial Day weekend. But traffic will be slow through the cone zone marking that stretch of the road, and business owners are not happy that work on the bridge will continue until August.
The bridge, a major component of the Westside Avenue Action Plan project, was scheduled for completion in April. But because the crew ran into huge boulders, unmarked utilities and other debris underground, the project had to be re-engineered and the timeline was lengthened.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate,” said Farley McDonough, owner of Adam’s Mountain Café.
McDonough said the delay “is definitely having a negative impact. The season started last weekend, but it’s way late. April was down, and May didn’t kick in until this week.”
She said business at the café has been running 13-20 percent per month below previous years.
“I have not seen May’s numbers, but I’m in a hiring freeze,” she said. “Usually I’ve already been in a second round of hiring to get us through July, but I’m not even going to consider it. That’s like 10 employees working at 70 percent capacity. It’s enough to get us through the summer, but there’s no reason to hire anyone except maybe one more cook.”
Work on the road west of the café has been completed.
“Coming from the west, it’s not bad, but the tourists don’t know that,” she said.
McDonough said it is difficult to explain to visitors that they can avoid the construction by heading west on U.S. Highway 24 to the Manitou exit, then doubling back east on Manitou Avenue to reach the café.
The Westside Avenue project managers are attempting to keep one lane of traffic open in each direction on Colorado Avenue, but the flow is reduced periodically to one lane, with flaggers directing vehicles to stop or go. That sometimes results in delays of five minutes or more.
Leslie Lewis, executive director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, said she has been hearing for a long time that people from Colorado Springs aren’t coming to Manitou because of the construction, “but there’s no way to get a really good measurement of how many people aren’t coming right now.”
Lewis said a Colorado Springs Utilities pipeline project that closed most of El Paso Boulevard in Manitou for six months has been completed.
“I haven’t heard businesses saying it’s better since El Paso opened,” Lewis said. “They’re still saying business is slower than it should be.”
Greg Dingrando, El Paso County spokesman, said the project will shut down operations by about 3 p.m. Friday, May 25, and remain closed through Memorial Day.
“We will clean up the area, restripe the road, get the majority of the equipment out, sweep and groom, and be back at it Tuesday morning,” Dingrando said.
Despite the delays, progress is being made on the bridge, he said. Construction crews put all 20 of the bridge’s girders into place Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Installation of the girders is a big step forward, said Dennis Barron, project manager for El Paso County, but it required fully closing West Colorado Avenue periodically near Columbia Road and detouring of traffic.
“We’re getting there,” Dingrando said. “We are targeting late August to have the bridge finished and open to traffic.”
Until then, the street will sometimes be reduced to one lane of traffic under flagger control.
Other parts of the project include building the Midland trail along Fountain Creek and diverting the water into its final channel.
The biggest change motorists will see this summer is that the construction area will begin to expand eastward from the bridge site, Barron said. Utility work has already started ahead of Wildcat Construction, the project contractor.
That will mean closure of the eastbound lanes of West Colorado Avenue. The westbound lanes will be opened to all traffic, with one lane of traffic in each direction.
Other impacts after Memorial Day will be closure of 36th Street to through traffic between West Pikes Peak Avenue and West Colorado Avenue for water line and storm sewer work. The Pikes Peak Avenue intersection at Ridge Road will remain closed.
Ridge Road is permanently closed between West Pikes Peak Avenue and West Colorado Avenue, where a pedestrian and bike plaza will be installed.
The best way to avoid delays, Barron said, is to use Highway 24 until the bridge is completed.
“We just sort of have to keep putting up with it,” McDonough said.