Summit County officials are moving forward with an extension of the recpath network to Copper Mountain's far-east lot even though it will cost about $375,000 more than originally budgeted.
The project includes the construction of a 12-foot-wide asphalt recpath and 2-foot soft shoulders to connect the Highway 91/Copper Road intersection and Hwy. 91 south of Copper Mountain's parking areas. The trail extension will cover roughly 7,200 feet.
County representatives said the benefits of the recpath project outweigh the unexpected costs.
"The section behind the Conoco at Copper behind the far-east lot is really important because it was a section where people had to ride on frontage road. It wasn't the normal, comfortable experience you have while on the recpath," said assistant county manager Thad Noll.
"This will be the section that eliminates the frontage road. It will run across from the river and will be an absolutely different experience," he said.
This extension is also part of a larger vision to connect the recpath network up the pass near Climax Mine and into Lake County.
Officials dipped into the county's Open Space and Trails funds to make up for unexpected costs. Noll said county employees will also work with the contractor to come up with ideas to lower costs along the way.
"There are a lot of wetlands and a river, so it's been a difficult area to get an extension established," said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier.
When constructing the original budget, county officials said they underestimated the difficulty of getting equipment to the site.
"We may cut down our mobilization costs if we pay a little more to make the bridge more heavy duty," Noll said.
This would allow the paver and other equipment to cross the bridge and obtain easier access to the construction site, he added.
A rise in the builders economy is also making contractor bids more competitve than in the past few years, county officials said.
"For a while now, because the economy has been in a hole, we have had remarkably low bids on a number of maintenance projects, and we've been able to push forward on trail and maintenance projects on a lower budget," Stiegelmeier said. "Now the economy is coming back to the degree that there is more work to choose from, and they aren't willing to bid as low as they were before."
Summit received seven bids on the project, so those involved with the project felt confident they were getting fair and accurate offers on the recpath extension.
The original budget for the extension was $970,000. The engineer's final estimate for the project came in at $1,114,902. The lowest of seven bids came from local contractor Columbine Hills Concrete at $1,335,543.65.
"They do amazing work and we are thrilled they won the bid," Noll said.
The county has funding partners contributing to the recpath extension. The Colorado Department of Transportation is providing $500,000 toward the project. Copper Mountain is offering $250,000 and the Climax Community Investment Fund is adding another $95,000.
Representatives say they didn't hesitate to move forward with the more costly recpath construction because the network of paved trails has come to be recognized as more than just a transportation corridor. Locals and tourists of all ages and fitness levels use the recpaths as a way to get outside, exercise and enjoy the landscape.
"It has slowly evolved and slowly been appreciated, but a this point we understand that people are coming from all over because we have this great network," Stiegelmeier said.