By Rachel Riley
Construction is set to begin next year on the first segment of a project that will eventually connect Powers Boulevard and Interstate 25.
Gary Erickson, developer of a retail center in northern Colorado Springs, said ground could be broken in May on a stretch of highway that will link the interstate and Voyager Parkway.
He expects the first stretch will be completed in 2019, but when the full extension will be finished remains in question.
I think we can easily have it open in five years," said Erickson, who's behind Polaris Pointe, a 200-acre complex near North Gate Boulevard and I-25 that's gradually filling up with shops, restaurants and other retailers. The development will play a vital role in funding the $37 million phase one of the extension.
The City Council voted in 2010 to designate Polaris Pointe, previously known as Copper Ridge, as an urban renewal area, allowing sales tax collected there to be used for the extension. City administrators then estimated that the retail complex could generate $141 million over 25 years for the project.
The complex is now home to big-name retailers including Bass Pro Shops and Sprouts Farmers Market, and a slew of eateries, from Chick-fil-A to C.B. & Potts Restaurant and Brewery. A 52-unit loft project is planned, Erickson said.
On Thursday, crews set girders for the Spectrum Loop Bridge, which will connect the northern and southern halves of the complex and eventually span the extended Powers Boulevard.
The first phase of the extension will begin with the construction of an interchange at I-25 and continue east with a 3/4-mile-highway, with two lanes in each direction, to Voyager Parkway. It will be financed with a bond that will be repaid with future sales tax revenue, Erickson said.
He said sales tax revenues, which he expects will grow as the first segment of the extension draws in more retailers, will likely cover the cost of extending the highway from Colorado 83 to Voyager Parkway.
The Colorado Department of Transportation estimates phase two will cost $70 million to $100 million, said Andy Stecklein, the agency's corridor manager for Powers Boulevard.
Aside from the money the urban renewal designation will generate, no other sources of funding have been identified to pay for the second phase of the project, Stecklein said.
Some financial support for the project could eventually come from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, although officials aren't sure when. The I-25/Powers Boulevard connection is one of dozens of voter-approved infrastructure initiatives that could be paid for by a 1 percent sales tax collected locally. But before any of the authority's money is allocated to the Powers Boulevard extension, a lengthy list of priority projects must be funded - and officials aren't sure how long that will take, said Rick Sonnenberg, program and contracts manager for the authority.
For now, CDOT isn't likely help pay to construct the extension.
"There's other needs that are higher-priority," said Stecklein, citing improvements needed on other highly-trafficked thoroughfares such as Research Parkway and U.S. 24.
CDOT is working on building on conceptual designs for the proposed stretch that were completed in the 1990s, Stecklein said.
Classic Homes, the homebuilder and real estate company that developed Flying Horse, has agreed to provide most of the rights of way needed for the second phase of the project as part of a 2001 agreement with the city.
A traffic study reported the completed connection of Powers Boulevard and I-25 would likely see more than 35,000 vehicles each day, Stecklein said.