There was an air of cautious excitement Tuesday as Colorado Department of Transportation officials updated the Summit Board of County Commissioners about a number of highway projects that could have positive effects locally in the future.
In the short term, CDOT officials said the department recently awarded the contract for improvements at the intersection of Rainbow Drive and Blue River Parkway near the Outlets at Silverthorne. The project proposes a slight widening of Rainbow Drive, which would allow cars turning left onto Blue River Parkway to do so simultaneously, resulting in more “green” time for motorists traveling in all directions.
The Rainbow Drive project is slated to take place between Easter and July 4, 2014.
CDOT officials also hope to begin construction in summer 2014 on the Colorado Highway 9 north project in Grand County and replace the exterior of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel’s 40-year-old roof in preparation for the installation of a fire suppression system. The roof project will have no effect on traffic through the tunnels, CDOT officials said.
In the long term, CDOT officials plan to go to bid on the fire suppression system project in the spring of 2014. That project is slated for two construction seasons, with completion scheduled for 2016.
However, CDOT Region 3 director David Eller highlighted the Colorado Highway 9 project between the Church at Agape Outpost and Coyne Valley Road in Breckenridge as an example for cautious optimism with upcoming projects. Despite meeting its goal of opening all four lanes of traffic in time for the ski season, the project is a little behind schedule.
Currently, the Highway 9 project is about 40 percent complete, Eller said. In addition to having all four lanes open to traffic, CDOT had planned to complete upgrades to the bridge near Tiger Run by winter. The bridge is only halfway done and CDOT officials made the difficult decision to postpone its completion until next summer, so not to burden skier traffic.
“That was a really great decision for us,” said assistant Summit County manager Thad Noll. “If they tried to finish the bridge this year we’d probably still only have two lanes open to traffic.”
There’s a lot of reasons why the Breckenridge Highway 9 project is behind schedule, Eller said. Although CDOT hired one of its most historically dependable contractors, the market was saturated last year with road construction projects around the state.
“The contractor on the Highway 9 project is one of our best contractors and they fell behind because they had four or five other projects going on,” Eller said.
Taking into consideration the recent announcement of more than $1.5 billion in road construction grants through CDOT’s Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships program, Eller said county officials might want to prepare themselves for a shortage in manpower as even more projects kick off next summer.
“Is that a concern?” Eller said. “Absolutely, especially with our short construction season, but it’s also human nature to pursue more work and we may begin to see contractors biting off more than they can chew.”
Although an increase in construction projects around the state could turn into a curse, Eller said he’s more concerned about the subcontractor market following the fall flooding on the Front Range.
“With all of the damage in Region 4, I think the real concern is going to be with rising costs for a lot of our subcontractors,” Eller said. “There’s a lot of work going on over there and it’s all not CDOT work. There’s a lot of private work happening on damaged homes and there’s a lot of local government work scheduled to take place next year.”
Despite a potential increase in road construction projects, Eller said CDOT expects to finish the Colorado Highway 9 project in Breckenridge by next year. In addition to completing upgrades to the second half of the bridge near Tiger Run, crews need to lay another two inches of asphalt on the southbound lane, construct a two-lane roundabout at Fairview Boulevard and build a median from the bridge to the church.
“With all of the damage in Region 4, I think the real concern is going to be with rising costs for a lot of our subcontractors. There’s a lot of work going on over there and it’s all not CDOT work. There’s a lot of private work happening on damaged homes and there’s a lot of local government work scheduled to take place next year.”
CDOT Region 3 director on the subcontractor market following the fall flooding on the Front Range