by Rick Langenberg:
The city of Cripple Creek has struck an $800,000 transportation jackpot that will pave the way for major road-related safety improvements and for big transit enhancements, including daily bus rides between Cripple Creek and Victor and a free downtown trolley service.
As a result, 2013 will be a busy time on the CC transportation front, with new shuttle buses, more transit rides for local residents and visitors and a bevy of orange cone zones. “This is good news,” said White, who noted that the city ended up receiving nearly a 100 percent funding award for various bids it has sought for some time.
Last week, White and Public Works Director Greg Severance announced an unprecedented amount of state and federal grants that the city recently landed. According to Severance, the city will receive a $510,000 award from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to address what some describe as the number one death zone for area motorists. The grant will most grapple with several dangerous curves on Teller One, just outside town. “We have had numerous fatalities on this road,” said Severance. “This will address probably the number one safety improvement need in Cripple Creek.” He said the grant, which only requires a $51,000 match from the city, would mainly “fix the geometrics of these curves.”
That’s great news, announced several elected leaders, but what about a sidewalk? Mayor Bruce Brown noted that the lack of a sidewalk in this part of town has created problems. In response to these concerns, Severance said the grant monies would fund a pedestrian trail in this area, allowing kids and families to walk to the grocery and hardware store from the schools and their homes in a much safer manner than the current route.
Shuttle hits pay dirt
And as for other major grants, the city, as expected, hit pay dirt in snagging $288,000 in mostly federal dollars for the 5311 Rural Public Transportation Assistance program.
Under this award, the city, which will emerge as the main operator of a more coordinated district-wide transportation system, will get two new shuttle buses, bringing its fleet to four new vehicles. In addition, a $154,000 grant allotment will pave the way for daily rides between Cripple Creek and Victor, expanded hours for the city’s regular shuttle service and a new downtown (bus) trolley service that will travel up and down Bennett Avenue. White estimates that the additional services and equipment will allow the city to hire several additional employees.
The idea of this expanded bus service was first presented to the council last year by Ted Borden and Mary Bielz of the Teller Transportation Task Force. They are also involved with the Aspen Mine Center, a key player in the grant planning program. Bielz touted the grant program as an ideal way to offer a more coordinated transportation system throughout the district.
Initially, several council members were skeptical, until they learned that the city government’s price tag wouldn’t increase, even if it offered expanded service between Cripple Creek and Victor. Victor also has agreed to contribute $25,000 a year into the program. Specific schedules haven’t been finalized yet for the program, which will kick off in 2013.
But according to White, the city is considering offering four rides a day between Cripple Creek and Victor. Also, during the prime season, its regular, call-for-service, shuttle would run from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. The downtown trolley, meanwhile, will trek up and down Bennett Avenue from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekend. (These hours will be shortened during the winter). The idea of a downtown trolley is a new component to transportation amenities in Cripple Creek, along with the daily rides between Cripple Creek and Victor. These particular services will be monitored by CDOT, which is overseeing the funding program, to assure the service has enough customers to justify the funding.
White is optimistic that the program will work, based on the popularity of the current system. “We really are just expanding our current service,” said the city administrator. “We have a pretty good base to work from.” Past bids for an expanded mass transit system often sound great on paper, but end up as big fiscal failures. A good example is the Ute Pass Express bus between Woodland Park and a number of Ute Pass communities and Colorado Springs. This service, which ended last October, ran for several years before the city of Colorado Springs pulled the plug on the commuter bus service.