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Cost rises for 'No Man's Land' project in El Paso County

Cost up from $30 million to $34 million

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - The project to revitalize an important corridor between Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs is increasing but it comes as no surprise to officials.

The Westside Avenue Action Plan is a 1.5-mile stretch where Manitou Avenue meets Colorado Avenue; locally it's known as "No Man's Land" because it was neglected and not maintained by local jurisdictions.

When workers began the two-year project a year ago, the projected cost was $30 million.

On Tuesday, however, El Paso County commissioners approved allocating an additional $1.3 million for design work.

"We anticipated that would happen," said county engineer Jennifer Irvine.  "We knew we'd run into unexpected issues such as boulders the size of cars, old underground utilities, more buildings to demolish and tires underground.  That's why we designed only 90 percent of the original project."

Irvine said after additional design and construction costs, the project cost will swell to $34 million.

"And it could end up being more than that," she said.

Most of the project is financed by the 1-cent sales tax by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.

"Even with the issues we've had, the project remains on schedule to be completed by the end of the year," Irvine said.

But not everyone is pleased with the progress.

Judi Ochs, owner of Metal Mamas art shop, said she'll be glad when the project is finished but has dealt with moments of frustration.

"First, they said they were going to take just a third of my property," she said.  "They ended up taking two-thirds and they didn't want to pay me for it.  I had to hire an expensive attorney to get fair market value."

Ochs said the part of her property lost to the project is a small building and land above where Fountain Creek is being moved slightly north under a new bridge.

Another property owner who recently spoke with KRDO NewsChannel 13 apparently lost his effort to keep his property from being seized through eminent domain; his building is next to Ochs'.

The project also is relocating overhead power lines underground, and will add new landscaping, lighting and other beautification.

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