August 17, 2017 Vol. 16 No. 39
Utilities pipeline project may add to traffic woes
Written by Jeanne Davant   

Classic Convergence


Above, support vehicles and motorcycles follow the male bicyclists through Garden of the Gods during the Colorado Classic’s third lap on Thursday, Aug. 10. Overhead, a helicopter carrying a film crew approaches the course. The race was a windfall for the Pikes Peak region’s image as a sports mecca, but the road closures caused headaches for drivers from downtown Colorado Springs to the edge of Manitou Springs.

Jenn Valente, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student, won the race’s first leg on her home turf. Sara Poidevin of Canada won the final stage and the overall title on Friday, Aug. 11, in Breckenridge. Valente finished 27th on Friday and overall.

Florida native John Murphy won the first stage of the men’s race, edging out rivals in downtown Colorado Springs. Manuel Senni of Italy wrapped up the overall men’s title on Sunday, Aug. 13, in Denver.

Photo by Rhonda Van Pelt

Traveling into and out of Manitou Springs could become even more time-consuming this fall, when Colorado Springs Utilities begins construction to replace two sections of a 30-inch water pipeline.

The cast-iron pipeline, constructed in the 1930s, is in excellent shape, but it passes under businesses, homes and other structures on El Paso Boulevard, Utilities Water Projects Manager Jeff Daniel said.

“In March 2018, the Mesa treatment plant is going to undergo a substantial project,” Daniels told Manitou Springs City Council on Tuesday.

“The only time we’ve had problems with pipelines is when we’ve shut them down and brought them back up. We really need to get it out from under those structures.”

The pipeline is one of two that convey water from the Manitou Springs Hydro Plant to the Mesa treatment plant. The sections that will be replaced run beneath a retaining wall near City Hall, a house, the Red Wing motel and several other structures.

About 7,900 feet (about a mile and a half) of new pipe will be installed along El Paso Boulevard. Additional work will involve installing vaults near the hydro plant.

Construction is expected to begin in October and will be completed before work on the treatment plant starts in March. Utilities would like to use the Hiawatha Gardens parking lot as a staging area.

The project is still in the design phase, so no dollar amount is available.

Councilors learned of the project for the first time Tuesday and were none too pleased.

“There’s no question that our community has construction fatigue,” Councilor Coreen Toll said. “Are we being told you’re going to do this, or are we being asked to access our roads? I like to collaborate, but I need more information and more time to think about this.”

Councilor Randy Hodges noted that El Paso Boulevard “is one of the alternative routes to get us to bypass the construction on Manitou Avenue” that’s part of the Westside Avenue Action Plan.

“It seems like we’re just messing up our access to town with this project, when it’s already messed up,” Hodges said.

Daniel said the pipeline replacement has been fast-tracked because “as of two months ago, this was not a project. As of two weeks ago we didn’t have a contract.”

The issue arose when Utilities managers were looking at the effects the Mesa plant construction would have on the water distribution system.

“We’ve looked at alternative routes, and this is the best thing we could come up with,” Utilities Project Manager Steve Rodriguez said.

One alternative was running the new pipe down Manitou Avenue, but that would involve ripping up the street’s new pavement.

Wildcat Construction was chosen as the project contractor, in part because the company is also the Westside Avenue project contractor. That should make it easier to coordinate traffic control for both projects.

Daniel said the contractor will develop a public safety and traffic control plan and will work around holidays and events such as the Emma Crawford Coffin Races.

Construction will be done in short sections, and work on each will be completed and the street repaved before crews move on to the next section.

During construction, “access will be one lane with a flagger, but there may be a couple of times we need to close portions of the street for short periods,” Daniel said.

“We’re thinking of starting at Columbia Street and heading west” while the WAAP project moves in the opposite direction, Rodriguez said.

Manitou Springs Public Services Director Shelley Cobau said the pipeline “has been identified as a potential for failure.”

“We’ve seen, not far from City Hall, what happens with a break in that line. The silver lining is that we get new pavement on El Paso.”

Hodges said he was concerned about whether the abandoned pipeline would hold up.

“Is it still going to be able to support the weight of the structures on top of it?” Hodges asked. “You need to pump it full of concrete.”

Daniel said the pipeline is in remarkable shape for its age.

“The wall thickness is within 1/100th of the original structure,” he said. “We currently don’t foresee filling up the pipe. It’s very unlikely to have issues.”

Leaving it unfilled also provides the opportunity for future use of the pipeline as a conduit for fiber-optic cable or a sewer line, he said.

Daniel said Utilities would conduct a public open house after the project design is substantially completed and a traffic control plan is in place.

“It’s going to take some effort on our part and some patience on Manitou’s part,” said Rodriguez, a Manitou resident.

“It’s something that has to get done. By the time everybody’s done, there’s new infrastructure throughout Manitou.”