November 27, 2014 Vol. 14 No. 1
Why Manitou Avenue won’t get fixed soon
Written by Jeanne Davant   

Firefighters respond to ‘car crash’

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Top, Manitou Springs firefighter Mike Willie takes a sledgehammer to a car in the high school parking lot last week, preparing it to be part of an elaborate demonstration to inform students about the dangers of texting and driving. The car Willie is tearing up is actually one of two junk vehicles placed in the lot by firefighters to help with a victim extraction demonstration.

Students at Manitou Springs High School witnessed a realistic rescue drill last week when firefighters staged a vehicle crash in the school parking lot and extracted four “victims” from the wreckage using a hydraulic cutting tool.

Joining the exercise was a helicopter crew from Flight for Life at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital that landed on the school’s practice field. Prior to the demonstration, students watched a film about the dangers of texting while driving.

Photos by Larry Ferguson

112714_ManitouAveTeeth-rattling potholes. Crumbling asphalt. Cracks and trenches that are getting worse and worse.

From Pawnee Avenue to the east arch, Manitou Avenue is deteriorating. And it’s not going to get repaired until at least 2016, or maybe even 2017.

“I don't know if it’s going to last until 2017,” says Public Services Director Bruno Pothier, who has been trying for more than four years to negotiate an agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation to repave the avenue.

Repaving had been scheduled for 2015, but CDOT funding has been moved out because it cost so much to repair roads in Boulder and Lyons in the aftermath of last year’s devastating floods, Pothier says.

Although CDOT owns the avenue from arch to arch, Public Services has been filling cracks and potholes to the extent it can afford. But the damage is getting too severe for city crews to handle.

It would cost more than $2.2 million to repave the road—an amount that far exceeds the city’s means.

Since 2005, the city has been removing snow from the avenue because CDOT’s plows have steel blades that could damage the concrete stamping in the middle of the street.

The city proposed a maintenance agreement with CDOT in 2010, under which the city would continue to be responsible for snow removal and CDOT would continue to fix potholes and cracks.

In May 2010, however, Pothier got an email from Gary Heller, CDOT Highway Maintenance Supervisor, stating that the state agency had decided not to approve the agreement.

CDOT did agree to provide 100 tons of sand and salt each winter, and the city agreed to plow the street from El Paso Boulevard to Pawnee.

In February 2012, CDOT asked the city to start taking care of potholes on the avenue.

CDOT agreed to provide the city with 10 tons of cold-mix asphalt, a type of material that is used in the winter.

The agency had scheduled repaving of Manitou Avenue during its fiscal year 2015, which started in June of this year, and Pothier agreed to take care of the potholes, with the understanding that CDOT would resume maintenance of the avenue once it was rebuilt.

In a meeting earlier this year about a different matter, Pothier found out that the repaving project had been removed from CDOT’s 2015 schedule. He wrote to Doug Lollar, Region 2 North Program Engineer, on March 11 expressing concern about the condition of the avenue.

“Frankly, the avenue is deteriorating every day and is now in extremely poor condition,” Pothier wrote. “In our view, any postponement of a complete rebuild is not a good idea.”

Pothier pointed out that Manitou doesn’t have the manpower or resources to take care of the avenue’s maintenance beyond snowplowing.

“Unfortunately (we) will have to rescind this verbal agreement,” he wrote.

Lollar wrote back the same day, confirming that repaving of the avenue “has slipped back a bit” because of funding limitations, unanticipated needs and other factors.

In his response the following day, Pothier proposed an alternative to repaving the entire street.

The total length of the avenue from the east arch to the Serpentine roundabout is about 12,000 linear feet. The stretch from the Highway 24 overpass to the east arch will be rehabilitated with Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority funds as part of the Westside Avenue Action Plan, and the city is going to rehabilitate the section from Park Avenue to Serpentine using PPRTA and federal transportation funds.

That leaves only 5,600 linear feet of the avenue between Pawnee and the overpass—less than half the avenue’s length—that CDOT would need to repave. Pothier estimates the cost of paving that section at $800,000.

Still, CDOT was unable to move up the repaving schedule, and in late May, Pothier notified the department that the city was returning maintenance of the avenue to the agency, except for snowplowing.

Lollar responded that he would try to accelerate paving of the worst section of the avenue.

“I hope that we can commence construction in July 2015, however, funding constraints will likely not allow us to do any work until summer 2016,” he wrote in a June 2 email.

And that is where matters currently stand.

Meanwhile, motorists have to dodge the potholes, cracks and irregularities, and cyclists face a dangerous ride on the eastbound side of Manitou Avenue. The last time the avenue was paved, it was not properly milled, Pothier says, and asphalt was put down on top of the gutters all the way to the curb.

“You can see that the asphalt is higher than the gutter, and chunks are missing,” Pothier says. “We need to make sure people don’t fall, so we asked them to come in and pave the gutter. That has been done in places, but it is not good because it stops the flow of water.”

Near Venue 515, the avenue is cracking in the middle.

For now, Pothier’s hands are tied.

“We are waiting for them to decide if they will do it in 2015,” Pothier says. “If it’s not until 2017, I don’t know if it’s going to make it.”