A revamped downtown Rifle takes shape amid construction
Following months of construction along Third Street and closing down a section of Railroad Avenue to through traffic, the fruits of downtown Rifle’s revitalization project are starting to ripen.
“When you actually get over to that west side, suddenly it feels totally different,” City Manager Scott Hahn told Rifle City Council on June 2. “It doesn’t feel like Rifle downtown, because you’re used to thinking how it used to be… I have business owners come out, and they’re extremely pleased with how it’s looking.”
City engineer Craig Spaulding said work began this week on the sidewalk on the opposite end of Railroad Avenue between Second and Third streets. Curb and gutter work are also underway.
After a new waterline was tested last week, Spaulding said water services will be tied into existing valves this week.
Spaulding said excavation is taking place between Third and Fourth streets.
“That section gets excavated down 3 feet from the finished surface to get rid of unsuitable soils,” he said. “That will be starting and require at times a closure of the intersection of (Fourth Street), so access to (Alpine Bank) will be through the alley.”
“We are putting the temporary exit back through the DDA parking lot through the post office,” Spaulding added. “But that will be the biggest change to traffic flow and parking.”
KSK Construction, contracted by the city for $3.8 million to fix infrastructure, render parking and beautify the downtown area, finished concrete paving Third Street between Railroad and West avenues.
KSK Construction owner Kirk Knowles said pavement marking material has been ordered, and they’re working on handicap access points and crosswalks this week. In addition, the west section of Third Street is now wired for electrical, and light poles are being erected.
“I’m just thrilled with the performance and the work and the operation we’re getting from the city and the city staff,” Knowles said. “We were a little bit rough starting out with (requests for information), trying to figure each other out.”
Earlier this year, amid an increase in traffic and road closures due to downtown construction as well as a delay in construction completion for the Centennial Parkway Bridge, the city requested KSK provide more information in relation to their scheduling and procedures.
In addition to all the new attributes taking form in the downtown area, Hahn reported a construction mishap that recently occurred. Hahn said an old 10-inch waterline that wasn’t properly secured burst during excavation procedures.
“We had a 10-inch just blowing water and turned the entire downtown project into a river of mud and then flooded some of the businesses downtown,” he said.
Hahn praised contractors for immediately scrambling to fix the problem.
“We went down into Lauren Boebert’s basement area, and she had to show me how the waters come in different places and how they’re drying it all out,” Hahn said. “It was dramatic that day. I just want to credit the contractor and our staff.”
Knowles said the new replacement pipe will last “beyond our great-grandchildren.”
“Quite honestly, by the grace of God, we decided to go get lunch and crawl out of that hole when it exploded,” he said. “We could’ve hurt somebody.”
“You’re never prepared for it,” Knowles added. “But we had a great response for it.”
Knowles also told City Council that downtown construction will not be completed in time for the Garfield County Fair, which is slated to start July 27. He did say, however, that the goal is to have the area paved in time for the fair’s parade.
Roughly 30 downtown businesses negatively affected by the downtown construction project are eligible for up to $2,000 each in support from the city of Rifle.
Since April, construction has closed off sections of Third Street and Railroad Avenue, which has affected parking and traffic.
“This is a way to get some reimbursement back into the hands of businesses affected by the downtown closures essentially,” city manager Scott Hahn said.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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