COS End of Year Highlights #3: Colorado Springs continues to improve with investments in infrastructure, tools to engage residents

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - In 2020, the City of Colorado Springs has maintained a keen focus on City infrastructure by increasing maintenance of its roadways, reducing neighborhood flooding and maintaining City parks, trails and open spaces for residents to enjoy. With the March release of GoCOS!, a new, improved mobile application, and the October launch of EngageCOS, residents can report infrastructure issues or request City services with greater ease and weigh in on City projects at key times in the design process.

Continued investment in stormwater improves water quality, reduces flooding in Colorado Springs

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A movement is afoot to reduce flooding across Colorado Springs. Over the past several years neighborhoods are slowly beginning to see a steady decrease in the amount of flooding taking place at intersections, along our creeks and channels, and on our roadways. From major channel stabilization projects protecting properties and maintaining Creekside habitats, to small neighborhood improvements that have alleviated chronic flooding issues, there is a noticeable change to how stormwater is managed in Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Springs Stormwater Enterprise continues to invest in infrastructure projects, maintenance and programs to reduce the threat of flooding, improve water quality and protect downstream communities. Since the City entered an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with Pueblo in 2016 to invest $460 million over twenty years, the Stormwater Enterprise has been actively working to build new, improved infrastructure, maintain its current system and work in the community to encourage everyone to take an active role in keeping our creeks healthy for generations to come.

Thanks to voters' approval to establish a dedicated Stormwater Fee in 2016, the City has met its obligation to invest $100 million in Stormwater infrastructure and maintenance for the first five-year period of the agreement. This not only means the City is meeting its legal requirement to fund stormwater, it means that neighborhoods all across Colorado Springs are seeing significant improvement in how storm events impact our community.

In 2020, eight IGA projects were completed: Two projects to stabilize eroding channels, four detention facilities to release stormwater slowly after large storm events, two to reduce street flooding and several neighborhood drainage projects to address localized flooding. Projects of note for 2020 include the re-grading and addition of infrastructure along Cheyenne Boulevard and the stabilization of Camp Creek through Rock Ledge Ranch near Chambers way. Additionally, a large flood mitigation facility was constructed at the northern end of Garden of the Gods Park to help protect the Garden and downstream communities after they were left vulnerable to significant flooding from the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar.

Work to stabilize and rebuild sections of Pine Creek and East Fork Sand Creek to prevent further erosion/damage was complete thanks in part to federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). A neighborhood project to install several stormwater inlets and perform underground work wrapped up near the Citadel Mall this fall to alleviate chronic street flooding concerns for neighbors along Santa Rosa Drive near Chelton Road.

In the first five years of the City's agreement with Pueblo the Stormwater Enterprise has met all of the requirements for investing in our city's stormwater system and has completed 19 IGA projects to date with 45 other projects at various stages of planning, design or construction. This continued investment in stormwater has alleviated chronic flooding for many neighborhoods, has improved the quality of water reaching our downstream neighbors and has put Colorado Springs well on its way to having one of the best stormwater systems in the nation.

First five years of 2C paving program comes to a close, repaves 1,074 total lane miles citywide

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In November, the fifth and final season of 2C paving completed with 1,074 total lane miles repaved throughout Colorado Springs. This work was made possible by the temporary five-year 2C ballot measure passed by voters in 2015 that imposed a 0.62 percent sales tax dedicated exclusively to roadway repairs.

The 2C effort will continue for another five years at a lower sales tax rate (0.57 percent, or 5.7 cents on a $10 purchase), starting on Jan. 1, 2021. The sales tax has, on average, collected more than $50 million annually and is expected to continue collecting that amount despite the lower rate. The program's extension was approved by voters in 2019.

Necessary pre-overlay work – such as fixing concrete sidewalks, curbs, gutters and pedestrian ramps – has already begun on roads scheduled to be repaved with 2C funds in 2021, the first year of 2C's second five-year term. Among the estimated 185 lane miles to be repaved next year are Interquest Parkway, North Gate Boulevard, Old Farm Circle, Peterson Road, Stetson Hills Boulevard and Weber Street. The final 2021 paving list is now available at ColoradoSprings.gov/2C.

"Nothing more clearly defines the renaissance of our city than the significant roadway improvements made possible by ballot measure 2C," said Mayor John Suthers. "While there is still work to be done, funding from this critical local ballot measure has delivered more than the 1,000 lane miles we promised voters when we took this measure to the ballot in 2015. 2C has made a major difference in the trajectory of our critical infrastructure.  I am proud of the efficiency of this effort and thank our citizens for their support."

The following are cumulative paving and concrete numbers funded by 2C from 2016-2020:
  • Repaved 1,074 lane miles, the approximate driving distance from Colorado Springs to Chicago
  • Replaced 874,131 linear feet of curb and gutter, or 165.5 miles, the approximate driving distance on I-25 from Colorado Springs to the Wyoming border
  • Replaced 1,709,693 square feet of sidewalk, the same area as 363 basketball courts
  • Installed 880 new pedestrian ramps
  • Retrofitted 4,586 existing pedestrian ramps

With nearly 6,000 lane miles in city limits, the first five years of 2C targeted main roads considered "arterials" and "collectors."  The next five years aims to finish the arterials and collectors while also tackling more residential roadways. The order in which roads are paved is dictated by an extensive coordination effort that syncs paving with other roadway projects.

Work continues on park improvements funded by ballot issue 2B

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In 2020, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department made significant headway in completing a myriad of improvement projects in City parks, sports and cultural facilities, and on trails. Many of these improvements were funded by $7 million in excess 2018 TABOR revenue that voters allowed the City to retain for Park-specific projects by passing ballot measure 2B in the November 2019 election.

Construction on several 2B projects is currently underway, including the placement of new wayfinding signage in Palmer Park; installation of new artificial turf on three softball fields at Cottonwood Creek Park; and the resurfacing of trail segments on the Homestead and Sand Creek Trails. Completed 2B projects include new lighting for the popular pickleball courts in Monument Valley Park; resurfaced trail segments on the Palmer-Mesa Trail and Legacy Loop at Shooks Run; and an updated irrigation system and tree maintenance and planting in Monument Valley Park.

Looking ahead to 2021, several more 2B projects will begin, including the construction of new elements in the downtown historic parks; repaving of Evergreen and Fairview cemetery parking lots; restoration of the pond and pavilion in Monument Valley Park; replacement of sport courts in Boulder and Thorndale parks; addition of new features to the soon-to-be renovated Panorama Park; and the creation of a master planA plan for the development of a portion of the city that contains proposed land uses, a generalized transportation system, and the relationship of the area included in the plan to surrounding property. for Coleman Community Park.

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Additional details regarding 2B-funded park improvements are available at ColoradoSprings.gov/2b.

EngageCOS connects residents with City projects during pandemic and beyond

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Our community makes better decisions when residents are aware of City projects and have a voice in the process. In that effort, the City of Colorado Springs has launched key initiatives to help connect the public with City services to help meet the ever-evolving needs of our community. The global pandemic has presented new challenges, but our commitment to improving infrastructure and services has been a key part of keeping our economy strong.  Now residents can learn about and weigh in at key times in the design process by joining the conversation in a virtual environment. This has allowed many projects and planning processes to continue throughout the pandemic as residents can participate from the safety and comfort of their home.

To make it easier for the public to engage with their local government, the City launched a new web-based platform, EngageCOS, in fall 2020. On this platform, residents can learn about City plans and projects, such as building a new bridge, improving traffic in a neighborhood, or planning how to best use our open spaces.

Visitors to EngageCOS can view projects, search and filter those that are presently taking input or are in their area of town, and track the progress of projects in which they are interested. EngageCOS makes it easy for residents to stay aware of projects that affect them, and to have a voice in the process.

Learn today how your City government is working to serve you at ColoradoSprings.gov/EngageCOS.

GoCOS! – so much more than reporting potholes!

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In a year of curbside groceries and drive-up shopping, the City of Colorado Springs continued to support our community by moving many government services online. The City's GoCOS! app, which launched last November, is often considered a pothole-reporting tool. But this year, many City departments used the GoCOS! platform to provide digital versions of their services that previously required in-person contact. From Open Records requests to scheduling City planner reviews, City services went digital in 2020. The number of GoCOS! requests filed in 2020 roughly equaled the total number of requests filed in the previous eight years combined. Learn more from the Behind the Springs Podcast.

New sustainable energy path for Colorado Springs

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In June of 2020 the Colorado Springs City Council/Utilities Board committed to a new energy future for Colorado Springs that is cost-effective, resilient and environmentally sustainable. Aligned with the Utility's Energy Vision, the plan achieves an 80 percent carbon reduction by 2030 and decommissions all Springs Utilities coal generation by 2030, including closing the downtown Martin Drake Power Plant no later than 2023.

"This is a historic decision for the future of our utility and this city," says Utilities Board Chairwoman/Councilmember Jill Gaebler. "It sets us on a path to best support our Energy Vision and its strategic pillars of economics, environment, resiliency and innovation."

The plan calls for grid modernization, integration of more cost-effective renewable energy and incorporation of new technologies like energy storage. Noncarbon resources such as wind and energy storage will replace the generation from the utility's last coal-fired plant, the Ray Nixon Power Plant which will be decommissioned no later than 2030.

To enable the decommissioning of the downtown Martin Drake Power Plant no later than 2023, temporary natural gas generators will be placed at the site to ensure system reliability. Once new transmission projects are complete in the coming years, generation will no longer be needed in downtown Colorado Springs and these units will be relocated.

"The Utilities Board decision charts a course to sustainable community growth, the wise management of natural resources, creates economy-wide opportunities and improves our overall quality of life," says Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. "It strengthens our brand as one of the most desirable places to live and continues to build a city that matches our scenery."

"My goal from this planning process was to develop an energy future that provides the most value to our customers; one that is resilient, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable," says Springs Utilities Chief Executive Officer Aram Benyamin. "Today's decision sets the stage for a brighter, sustainable future for generations to come."stats

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