11 Investigates: How Colorado Springs Roads Got So Bad

By  | 

July 30, 2015 Drivers in Colorado Springs have been battling potholes all season. They're a problem almost everywhere in the city, and streets crews had to fix thousands of them this year.

It's so bad that the new mayor, John Suthers, will be asking voters in November to pass a .62 percent sales tax to fix the roads.

We're asking: how did our roads get so bad in the first place? That's the question 11 News took to the city of Colorado Springs and the city Streets Manager Corey Farkas.

For several years, money coming from the city’s budget to fix the roads all but disappeared. The streets department was still getting funds from the $.1 sales tax from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, PPRTA, but we’re told it wasn't enough.

Drivers around town have been complaining for months, and so many have ended up in tire shops for flat tires, bent rims and alignment problems. Roneisha Frazier is one of those drivers.

"[The street] had the potholes the size of a small child. Like, literally, I thought somebody was climbing out of their house and digging them at night," Frazier told us.

"It's horrible. It's like driving through a minefield," Springs driver Robert Talltree added.

So how did the streets get so bad? Farkas has been the Colorado Springs City Streets Manager since 2013.

Chin: "We did nothing for nine to 10 years.”
Farkas: "Very little preventative maintenance has been done."
Chin: “And we don't know why.”
Farkas: "I can't tell you why."

We asked to see the Colorado Springs streets budget for the past two decades. It's a lot of numbers, but we looked to where it showed CIP. That stands for capital improvement projects; it's the money to fix our roads.

In just five years, that amount went from $5 million, to $1 million, to nothing in 2012.

The city's Chief Financial Officer Kara Skinner said it was the recession seven years ago that forced the city to make cuts.

"With that downturn, of course one of the things that you do is reduce across the board,” Skinner said. “Every department had budget reductions and that also impacted the capital improvement projects budget"

Most roads are fine for the first 75 percent of their lifespan, but Farkas said if you don't maintain them, that’s when the roads deteriorate rapidly.

"As that deferred maintenance keeps going, 'well, we're checking the roads, they still look good'--well that's because they still look good, they still look good, they still look good, whoops now they're falling off awfully fast."

That's when the city started to get behind in keeping up the road repairs. The Streets Division was still getting several million dollars from PPRTA during this time, but Farkas and Skinner said it wasn't enough to maintain all the roads in our city.

So for now, pothole patching and the work to make up for what was never done, continues.

When it comes to potholes and those cracks you see in the road, Farkas said this year was three to four times worse than last year. And added: wait until next year, because it will likely be worse.