Leaders Cite Concerns Over Traffic; Signs and False Promises
As one of the Pikes Peak area’s most famous attraction reopened, drawing an influx of visitors and a huge increase in traffic once again, the Manitou Springs City Council has expressed anger with Phil Anschutz, owner of the Broadmoor Resort and the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railroad, affectionately known as the Cog.
And unless the Cog starts abiding by previous commitments and addresses key mitigation issues, it could face a shutdown, argues one elected leader.
As part of a discussion about the Manitou Transportation and Mobility Master Plan during a recent work session, council members questioned aspects of the recent completion of work on the Cog and the reopening of the attraction last month. The main issue hinged on the touchy subject of traffic and parking.
Council member Judith Chandler stated that management of the Cog had promised to provide out-of-city parking facilities for passengers of the train to reduce the traffic along the Ruxton Avenue corridor, but stated that this has not yet been fulfilled.
“I have heard comments from people at the parking lot at Hiawatha Gardens telling them that the Cog’s Website directed passengers to park there and take the shuttle to the terminal to board the train,” she said. “It is time for us to hold the management’s feet to the fire to get them to follow through on their promises to the city.”
She stated that one of the issues of concern expressed by the Cog was the inability to hire enough drivers, but she suggested they pay employees a livable wage.
Council member Steve Bremner stated that he had heard plans for the Cog to add more trains to the daily schedule, which would further increase demands for parking.
“It’s only going to get worse,” Chandler said.
Council member Julie Wolfe voiced her suspicion that Deputy City Administrator Roy Chaney, who presented the information on the Mobility Master Plan to City Council, was only focused on pleasing the management of the Cog Railroad and they were the ones trying to dictate to the city how parking issues are handled. Calls from city officials to Cog management regarding the issue surrounding parking and signage went unanswered.
Another complaint was the fact that a sign regarding Cog parking availability remains in place at the Ruxton Avenue turnaround, despite calls to have it removed. Chaney added that complaints from residents and officials were that the signage was misleading and unnecessary.
Council member John Shada asked if the sign, which is owned by the Cog, was located on city property. Chandler said the sign needed to be removed from city property and relocated to property that is owned by the Cog Railroad. She added that if the Cog does not comply, then the city needed to take action to remove it.
Bremmer also raised an issue regarding complaints he had received from residents near the Cog stating that officials have been working on a section of track near the depot well into the night, stating that the very loud noises have been a cause for concern for residents and had become an urgent matter that needs to be addressed.
Bremmer said that all calls to the Cog from residents and city officials remained unanswered, and added that maybe the time had come for the city to permanently shut down the Cog. The work on the tracks is done within the city limits and is a violation of Manitou’s noise ordinance, he added.
“We don’t need a response from the Cog,” Wolfe said. “We have our own rules as a city and we should use them to do what’s best for our residents.”
The Cog, which was established in 1889 as the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Company, was purchased by Spencer Penrose, owner of the Broadmoor Hotel, in 1925. It closed in 2018 for infrastructure repairs. In 2018, billionaire Phil Anschutz purchased the Broadmoor and the Cog Railroad.
In other Manitou news, construction at the west end of Soda Springs Park, which has been funded by a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado is on schedule and should be completed by the end of July.
The MAPS Project, which extends downtown revitalization projects to Serpentine Drive, is expected to be completed by the fall. The project is funded by Colorado Department of Transportation and Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority.
The Beckers Lane Bridge project, funded by Manitou’s Urban Renewal Authority, is expected to be completed next month. Demolition of the newer, non-historic portion of the Hiawatha Gardens building is underway, as well as plans for the remodeling of City Hall.
Manitou Springs School District 14 recently received two grants to support its career and college readiness programs. The grants were from El Paso County Contractors Association and Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. The two grants will support programs in construction and math and science programs. The district is also preparing to institute a bond proposal during the upcoming election cycle to raise funds for additions to the high school and will hold a series of meetings regarding the issue through August.