One of Colorado's most-visited destinations is undergoing some big changes. Pikes Peak draws close to a million people a year to its summit at just over 14,000 feet.
The mountain's cog railway run by the Broadmoor Hotel has closed and it may not reopen. A three-year renovation is about to begin at the summit visitor center that will take away much of the parking at the peak. So just in time for this year's busy season, most tourists will no longer be able to drive to the summit. Instead, they'll take a shuttle that will start service around Memorial Day.
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Jack Glavan, manager of Pikes Peak-America's Mountain, part of the Colorado Springs city government, spoke with CPR News about what visitors should expect this summer.
"Visitors would come through the gate and pay their normal entrance fee, go up to one of two parking sites," he said. "From either of those points there would be a shuttle that would take the visitors up to the summit house and then obviously bring them back down."
Is this something that would be permanent?
"Right now, it's a temporary shuttle during the construction period. The project is scheduled for three years, so if we start this summer we're looking to finish the new building in 2020. At that time, with the site improvements, we will revert back to about the same number of parking spaces that we have now."
Do you expect some resistance from people who really just want to drive their cars to the summit?
"It's a potential. And what we're hoping is that people understand that for the safety of all the visitors as well as the construction workers, we're going to try to limit the parking. There's just not enough parking to allow everybody to go up."
And all of this is because of construction on the summit house. What's being done there?
"The current summit house will stay in operation. We will be constructing a new summit visitor center. It will be properly sized for the visitation we have. So you'd see about the same size of gift shop, about the same size of dining facilities, but also increase space for interpretation that we currently don't have at the existing summit house."
"Also, the building from the highway side, the roof of the new summit house would be at highway ground level. Visitors will be able to walk actually on the roof to have a greater observation point for looking east and south. That's gonna be a big change."
How do the materials and the workers get up there?
"Through the same highway. ... We're going to have early morning deliveries or night-time deliveries so they could safely get materials up there including concrete beams, maybe steel members. Workers, the plan is for them to meet at a certain location on the highway and the contractors actually are going to car pool those people up as well. Again, because of the minimum parking space available up there, we're going to try to minimize the vehicles from the contractor side as well."
What's the future of the Broadmoor's cog railway?
"What we've been told is that they're looking at their entire operation, the current conditions and the maintenance requirements. They're evaluating their business model. ... We think they'll have maybe a decision this year, but since cog is a private entity and we're a city government entity, we really don't know what they're going to do."
Is it possible that the city would take it over?
"I do not think so. I don't think the city would look at that."
Do you ever get tired of spending time on top of Pikes Peak?
"I don't think so. It's one of the most exciting views that I think we have in the state. My favorite is actually during the winter when the clouds are below us, the sun shining up on the peak and we're in the sunshine, and then you see the layer of clouds. It's great to go up here every day."