Monday, April 1, 2019

Mountain Metro light rail breaks ground outside Independent office

Posted By on Mon, Apr 1, 2019 at 12:32 PM

click to enlarge An Artist's rendering of the completed project. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • An Artist's rendering of the completed project.
The Colorado Springs Independent has been chosen as the first hub for a new light rail system connecting the city, a Colorado Open Records Act request revealed Monday.

Construction outside the Independent's office building, which began last week, had been, until now, shrouded in mystery. City officials would not tell Independent reporters what workers outside the building were doing.

But one construction worker, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, tipped us off to the possibility that the sidewalk, curb and gutter were being removed to make way for passenger rail — leading us to ask the city for any internal communications on the subject.

The resulting, heavily redacted emails revealed that city is funding the first phase of the rail construction with $10 million from the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) and $20 million from stormwater fees.
click to enlarge PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
The rail will eventually mean the Colorado Springs Independent's building will be purchased by the city to serve as a transportation hub, complete with light rail ticket sales, food outfits and a gift shop. The Independent and other Colorado Publishing House entities that also work out of our building at 235 S. Nevada Ave. hope to move into a newly constructed building just blocks away in the trendy New South End.

"We didn't want the public to find out this way," a city spokesperson wrote in an email containing the redacted records. "But it had to come out sooner or later." The spokesperson alluded to some secret PlanCOS meetings that happened with an inner circle of stakeholders, outside of the public meetings to update our city's Comprehensive Plan recently.

The light rail will eventually connect the entire city and allow a code change to remove any and all parking requirements for new residential and commercial developments. This also means that no new parking will be constructed for either the stadium or the arena that are components of the City for Champions economic development initiative.

City officials are about to launch an aggressive public relations campaign for a ballot initiative approving a new sales tax to fund the second phase of the light rail, multiple sources close to the mayor confirmed.

The announcement came on April 1, which happens to be April Fools Day.


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