Living with slow progress 

Ranger Rich

Construction workers at Academy Boulevard and Woodmen Road have moved approximately 100,000 cubic yards of dirt. This beats our village's previous record — the 90,000 cubic yards of dirt swept under the rug last year by the ethics committee that "investigated" Mayor Lionel Rivera.

But we're not here today to talk about politics or the current community debate about whether the village should change to a new form of government ("strong mayor") from its current form of government ("wrong mayor").

No, this is about the intersection of Woodmen and Academy and how it appears a gigantic airport is being constructed at the site. (Here you might ask, "Doesn't Colorado Springs already have an airport?" The answer, of course, is, yes. And, every other Thursday, a full-sized airplane.)

Anyway, the construction involves a fancy new interchange, an engineering marvel that will allow us, the village's highly skilled drivers, to more easily race through the red lights, screech to a stop at the green lights, take both hands off the wheel and reach down to tie our shoes, coax Danny the Great Dane to leap from the back seat and sit on our lap, and basically pilot our vehicles as though we forgot to remove our 3D glasses after seeing Avatar.

Interchanging times

Here's what we know about the massive construction project:

• It will cost taxpayers about $42-$50 million, unless it costs more, which is likely because the project involves the combined brainpower of local, state and federal government. Or, as they're more commonly known, Moe, Larry and Curly.

• When completed, Woodmen Road will go over Academy Boulevard. Although engineers don't put it that way. They call it a "grade-separated interchange." For example, drivers who have completed the ninth grade will go over the top. Those who appear not to have completed the ninth grade will drive underneath, on what will be called the Mayor Rivera Highway.

• The new interchange will allow villagers to drive more easily from the west, or "nice," side of town to the east, or "Kansas," part of town. Highway experts say the people from the Kansas side of town frequently come to the so-called nice side of town to run errands. An example: purchasing new door hinges for their outhouses.

In the meantime, the construction project has caused everyone to avoid the area because there's too much traffic there, which is confusing and sounds like something Yogi Berra would say. Frankly, I'm sorry I brought it up.

Let's listen to Wild Bird Center owner Frank Dodge, whose terrific store at the intersection boasts "everything for bird feeding and bird watching." (I bought a comfortable chair and a neck brace that keeps my head propped up at an unusual angle.) He believes the project is as much a self-made tribute to local politicians as a traffic problem-solver.

"What they can leave behind are buildings and roads," Dodge says. "It's the 'Look at me! Look what I did!' thing.

"But now that it's under way, I'm pleasantly surprised at how well it's going. Kraemer [general contractor Edward Kraemer & Sons] has done a tremendous job in devising easy access to our businesses."

Next door, Hobby Town USA owner Bernadette Noble has similar praise.

"Business is down, as you'd expect, because of the work, but we're very, very pleased how Kraemer has handled it. It's been much better than I expected."

Psychology lesson

In precise scientific traffic analysis studies that I personally conducted over two recent days — pausing only briefly to eat no fewer than three dozen bagels with cream cheese from the Einstein Bros. Bagels shop on Woodmen Road — I found the average wait for a traffic light at the project was about two minutes.

Nearly every car got through the intersection in under three minutes. One guy had his finger so far up his nose I'm surprised he didn't go blind, but that's not really important to this story.

Yet despite the reasonable flow of traffic, for many of us such construction sites are our second-worst nightmare. (Still firmly holding down the No. 1 spot is the one where Lionel Rivera is anointed Mayor for Life.)

"When the drive to work or the store doesn't go exactly as we want, we become edgy, antsy and irritated," says Colorado Springs psychologist Gayle Davis. "We can even take it personally, as if the construction workers are out to get us and are trying to ruin our day.

"We need to plan a little wiggle room into our trip. And we need to develop an attitude of 'What happens, happens. I can deal with it. Everything will be OK.' There aren't many people like that, the laid-back type, but we'd all be much better off if we could do it."

The interchange will be done, they tell us, in 2011. Here, however, is an actual sentence from the city's official Woodmen Road project website: "Construction on the City's portion from I-25 to Stinson Road is began in September 2009."

So don't hold your breath.

Unless you live out east and are stepping into the outhouse.



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