Friday, September 21, 2007

They're great for scary stories, but flashing lights at AFA have several purposes

I live in Monument and have a view of the Air Force Academy. Many times in the evenings I see random flashes of white light on the side of the mountain in the trees, just west of the chapel. The flashes of light are not in one spot, they are spread out in a relatively small area. What is going on there?
- Annette Hagopian

Sometime if there’s a full moon and coyotes are howling — or maybe if it’s close to Halloween — the tongue-in-cheek answer from the Air Force Academy is “alien ships.”

Otherwise, Staff Sgt. Monte Volk of AFA Public Affairs has the real scoop: “The lights are on three radio towers, and the lights are anti-collision lights installed on commercial cellular towers (AT&T/Nextel) on the Air Force Academy. During the day, the lights are strobes and at night, the lights flash red. The lights are controlled by a sensor so the times vary as to when they actually change from flashing red to white strobes.

“The lights are required because of helicopter traffic along a high voltage power line and the Pike Forest Department of Wildlife traffic.”

COSMIX speed-limit signs remain until the end of all construction

COSMIX SIGNS: Every time I pass through the I-25 section from Garden of the Gods Road through Woodmen Road exits, I wonder why there are still construction signs with “Fines Double” for an area that hasn’t had any construction going on for a long time.
- Wanda Holt

Here’s your answer from Kyle Troxel, spokesman for Rockrimmon Constructors, the company building COSMIX: “Although you don’t see construction going on in this area, that doesn’t mean that all work is completed. Those signs are up because work is going on there, during off-peak times mostly, and is not seen by the majority of I-25 motorists.“Workers are currently doing seeding and fence work on I-25 between Garden of the Gods and Woodmen Road in both directions, and are also doing some overnight shoulder work in the area.

“We keep those signs up because this is low-priority work at this time, and having the signs up gives workers the freedom to get to it whenever they can and in between the higher priority work projects along I-25."

And, before someone asks, yes, it’s the same Kyle Troxel who was on KRDO’s “Good Morning Colorado."

Chaparral Road a little bit of everything

I, and many other residents of the Old Farm subdivision, shop the stores along Powers Boulevard. The shortest distance to Powers is via Chaparral and Barnes roads. There is a sign on Chaparral about ¼ mile from Barnes that states “End of City Maintenance.” From that sign to Barnes, Chaparral is in very bad condition, particularly the last 30 feet or so.I called the city and was informed that the county is responsible for that section of Barnes Road. The county informed me that it is private property.I feel it is time for either the city or the county to repair Chaparral or close the road.
- Thomas L. Yingling

We spoke with the city and the county and learned this is something of a no man’s land caught up in the city’s growth. The first 600 feet or so belong to city, the next 600 feet or so belong to county, and another section is apparently still private property.City engineers are trying to work it all out.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Improvements coming to Powers near new Peterson AFB gate

In November the new West Gate will be ready to reopen for Peterson AFB. This will be a main gate with approximately 14,000 cars going through every day. Airport Road west from Powers Boulevard to East Sand Creek bridge can be widened to accommodate another lane. Presently it is just one lane. Will this be done before the gate reopens? Also a double left turn lane onto Powers Boulevard needs to be done. It is jammed now and will be horrendous if nothing is done to accommodate the much heavier anticipated traffic.
- Joe B Brady

A “hazard elimination and safety project” is planned for Powers Boulevard in this area and there are plans for some “capacity improvements,” but they won’t be completed by the time that gate opens, according to principal city traffic engineer Dave Krauth. Work on the HES will begin when contract paperwork is received from the Colorado Department of Transportation, Krauth said.

The widening of Airport Road west of Powers is the responsibility of developers in that area, but there is no time frame yet.

Bank took over Cascade motel

Driving down the pass from Woodland Park I have noticed that the Cascade Hills Motel (in Cascade) has been closed all summer. I’m just curious as to why. It looks like a nice place and I believe that shortly before it closed it was repainted and “spruced up.”

- Panchita Osborne

This motel was a favorite of some of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb drivers, crews and families over the years. In the 1990s it was owned by a limited corporation (LLC) but something happened and its owner is a Denver bank, which had no comment.

What was that midnight sound?

I live in Ivywild and at 12:10 a.m early in the morning of Monday, Aug. 26, my neighbors and I heard this loud noise that can only be described as the sound of a hot air balloon going over my house! This only lasted about 5 minutes! I couldn’t see a thing! My parents who live in Pikes Peak Park also heard this! We never saw anything in the paper, on the news or on the Police Blotter. Does anyone know what this was?
- Nancy Myers

Bloggers, any chance you can identify the strange sound?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hawaiian shirts on "casual Fridays" jumped from the islands to the mainland

Our office is filled with Hawaiian shirts on Fridays. I understand — and appreciate — the “casual Friday” tradition, but why Hawaiian shirts?
— J.J. Brown

ANSWER: An “Aloha Friday” to you, straight from the islands. It has been tradition in Hawaii for decades, and it jumped to the mainland with the advent of casual Fridays. Maui Magazine traced it to 1946, when the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce first proposed that it might be good for tourism — and comfort — if the business community wore aloha shirts during the summer. That idea lost out to the suits-and-ties requirement. A year or so later, the magazine said, government employees were allowed to wear sport shirts from June to October, but the aloha shirts were stored in the closet until Aloha Week each fall.

Jump forward to the 1960s when shirt designers and manufacturers successfully lobbied for Aloha Friday.Then came the Aloha Friday song recorded by Polynesian fire-knife dancer Kimo Kahoano and his Aloha Friday Band, and Islanders sang along, “It’s Aloha Friday, no work till Monday.” Team that with “pau hana” (after work) drinks, and the weekend was on its way.

The flowery, brightly colored Hawaiian shirts now spotted in offices on Fridays are wilder than traditional aloha shirts, which now get everyday wear, say Hawaiian media.

Block numbers being added to signs on main roads

Why don’t all street signs give the hundred block to inform the person the hundred block where he is? Going up and down Academy and other main streets, especially where they have put up new street signs, for the most part, they haven’t put the hundred block on the street sign.
— Bob Jensen
ANSWER: All new city street-name signs on major roads have block numbers, according to David Krauth, principal city traffic engineer. He said that until two years ago there were no signs with block numbers, but his department is in the midst of upgrading them, a project that will go through January 2011. Krauth pointed to Platte Avenue as an example of a completed major corridor with block numbers on all signs.This project does not include internal neighborhood signs, which will not have block numbers. The exceptions are residential streets leading onto major roads.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dogs in backs of pickup trucks not a legal matter

I wondered if the Colorado Springs Police Department actually enforces the law against driving with a dog in the back of a pickup truck. Time and time again I see dogs back there, like they are an inanimate object or a piece of luggage. I have personally seen a dog thrown from a pickup, literally fly out and killed, because the driver had to swerve suddenly. Not a pretty sight. So, is this law even being enforced or do the CS Police just turn a blind eye?
- Lee

ANSWER: It’s not illegal! Apparently the state legislature considered a law prohibiting people from keeping their dogs loose in the back of pickup trucks, but it was killed, said Ann Davenport, spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.

Law enforcement or humane officers would have to prove the dog is suffering as it rides in the back of a truck, but usually the dogs “are having the time of their lives,” oblivious to how close danger really is, she said. If an animal is thrown from a truck and injured or killed, this might fit under the state’s cruelty ordinance, Davenport said.

If you want restrictions on dogs in the backs of trucks, you should talk to your legislator.

Resort occupany numbers a private matter

The reports on the occupancy rates at Colorado Springs hotels and motels published in The Gazette always add “Local resorts, such as The Broadmoor, are not included in these numbers.” Why not? To report on occupancy rates without including the largest and most important facilities is ridiculous.
- Jack D. Rodreick

ANSWER: It is a hotel or motel’s right to not be included. According to Ivy Canady, Broadmoor public relations manager, “Since we are a privately held company, our ownership chooses not to share that information with the general public. We are included in the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report, but you cannot pull out our numbers separately."

Ongoing yard sales a city code violation

Is there a limit on how long a “yard sale” can be held in Colorado Springs? Near my location a yard sale has been going on for at least 3 months. When I checked it out for an item I was told to keep checking back because they get new items each week.
- A. Michaels

ANSWER: Permanent yard/garage sales aren’t allowed in the city. City code 2.7.416: GARAGE SALES specifies that a garage sale can be held no more than two times each calendar year and cannot exceed two consecutive days.

You can file a code-enforcement complaint online at; scroll down to Quick Links. The officers will check it out.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Yes, you're hearing more trains going through

I live on the north end of Colorado Springs and have been wondering if there has been an increase in the number and frequency of trains passing through town in the middle of the night. In the past 14 years I don’t recall hearing as many trains between 2:45 a.m. and 5 a.m. as I have been hearing lately.
- D. Gallagher

ANSWER: We had similar e-mails from Monument and Gleneagle, and Karen Liptrap from Widefield had this observation: “Not only do there seem to be more trains but the whistle blowing frequency and duration has increased, and is very annoying during the sleeping hours. There are times that it sounds as though two trains are playfully signaling each other.”

There has been a major increase in train traffic, according to the railroads. It’s estimated we get 35-40 trains each day. James Barnes, director of media information for Union Pacific Railroad, said, “In general, business customers are looking at railroads as the most cost-effective way to move automobiles, grain, heavy freight. There are more, larger and heavier loads being moved.” Barnes said this trend is “being driven by increased trade on the West Coast from the Pacific Rim, goods coming in from China.” As we’ve seen here, they are also delivering "a great deal of coal.” Barnes said that as quickly as trains are loaded “we’re moving them toward their destinations” so they’re rolling day and night. With these increased loads you’ll also see and hear more railroad work crews, Barnes said. “When you’re carrying heavier loads you have to maintain the corridor, the infrastructure.”

Now about those horns. Since 2005, federal law has required that train crews blow their horns for 15-25 seconds when they approach a crossing. They are also required to blow the horns when wildlife or people are close to the tracks. There is no set sequence to the horn blasts, although in days gone by engineers had a horn message system.

What can you do for peace and quiet? They’re called “quiet zones.” Towns and cities can request “quiet zones” where no horns will be blown by trains passing through. However, those towns and cities must have safety features in place at all crossings. It’s expensive. Four crossing gates with flashing lights are at least $250,000 per crossing. Monument requested a “quiet zone” in 2005, and Security and Colorado Springs have looked into establishing “quiet zones” but financing them will always be an issue.<

Thursday, August 09, 2007

New signs for AFA's "Historic District"

Going north on I-25 just before the North Academy exit, I noticed a brown sign on the side of the road that reads “Air Force Academy Historic District.” What is the story behind that sign
- Kathie Murrow

ANSWER: On April 1, 2004, the cadet area of the Air Force Academy, where the cadets live and train and including the chapel, was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark. The designation was commemorated with a stone monument at the Honor Court outside Arnold Hall. If a part of a facility is designated, the remainder is eligible for the same designation, according to AFA director of communications Johnny Whitaker.

Districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects are awarded National Register designation if they have significance in history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. It is administered by the National Park Service, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Earlier, the AFA superintendent’s house had been placed on the National Register. The exterior of the house can never be changed, according to AFA historian Betsy Muenger.

Whitaker said the signs on Interstate 25, which went up in May, had been requested to show travelers when they are passing through the academy, which runs on the west from a half mile south of Baptist Road on the north to an area south of the South Entrance, between Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard.

Woodmen exit right-turn red light means stop

When travelling northbound on I-25, if you take the Woodmen exit and turn right (eastbound) on Woodmen, there is a traffic light over the lanes that merge onto Woodmen. I have never seen anyone stop when the light is red. I always stop, and get honked at (among other “gestures”). Are motorists required to stop at this light if it’s red, even though it’s a right turn?
- Erich

ANSWER: You’re the driver who’s doing it correctly. City traffic engineer Rob Helt says it’s a “turn right on red” situation, which means if the light is red a driver must stop and can then make the right turn while yielding to oncoming traffic. Police can, and do, ticket those who don’t stop on red.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Some tracks being removed along Rock Island Trail

I enjoy walking along the Rock Island trail near where the old railroad bed is. I reminisce about how the train used to take passengers to our city. Recently I noticed that the rails are being dismantled on the trail section west of Powers. My questions are why are these rails being removed, who approved it and who's paying for it?
— Robert Veghte

Reader Darlene Hultquist also wrote in about the rails saying “the trail got its name from the railroad and the tracks were part of the trail. It's such a disappointment to see them removed.” After biking the trail Rod Rockwell e-mailed, “Another piece of Colorado Springs history falls to the wrecking ball.”

ANSWER: Here’s the answer from Chris Lieber, who manages trails and open space for the city parks department. The city is purchasing the property but the railroad tracks are owned by Colorado Springs and Eastern Railroad, which is salvaging them. “This does not involve city dollars,” Lieber said. “At three points where the trail crosses the railroad tracks, these sections of track will be retained for their historical value, to kind of always help people recall the historical significance of the railroad,” Lieber said.

Lou Carpenter of Manitou Springs wrote: "I would suggest Robert Veghte take his hike west of Powers Blvd. along the Rock Island Trail. He will find several places where the railroad crosses the trail and shows exactly how it was. I ride the trail from the Bon Shopping Center to Powers Blvd. and back, often. It is delightful and also pleasant to note that none of the work was done at taxpayer expense. We can give a big Thank You to the Trails and Open Space folks for this delightful experience."