Completion date for downtown construction in Rifle set for Sept. 10

Crews work on East Third Street in downtown Rifle on Wednesday morning.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Mark it on your calendar: Sept. 10.

Though the crystal ball isn’t always accurate, that’s the day Rifle’s temporary commercial and traffic tribulations are expected to end as contractors put the finishing touches on the major Downtown Revitalization Project in Rifle.

“We’re shooting for Sept. 10 to get the last of the hot mix asphalt in,” KSK Construction owner Kirk Knowles said. “And, when that happens, we should be able to hopefully open (Railroad Avenue) up with periodic lane closures versus full closures.”

Railroad Avenue was reopened to traffic on July 29 in anticipation of the Garfield County Fair parade. The downtown section of Railroad Avenue, essentially a gateway to the city’s main thoroughfare, was closed off to traffic ever since the $3.8 million project began in late winter.

Its closure led to a whirlwind of traffic delays and commercial turmoil.

Motorists were forced to use mainly residential side streets as alternative routes, while Rifle City Council at one point passed a $75,000 allocation out of the general fund to help assist at least 30 businesses that lost revenue due to construction.

City Manager Scott Hahn said there’s about $10,000 left from that allocation, which will be used to provide additional relief for those businesses on Railroad Avenue affected by construction.

The project, aimed at revamping underground infrastructure, creating new parking options and beautifying several attributes of the downtown area, has so far finished operations on West Third Street. The former asphalt road is now replaced by concrete, with new parking spaces and planters surrounding storefronts on both sides of the street.

“We have all of East Third (Street) left,” Knowles said. “And we’ve got to reclose Railroad (Avenue) from Third to mid-block at Fifth (Street).”

Knowles said once recent rainstorms clear up, the plan is to begin to complete landscaping and irrigation work on East Third Street beginning Monday. This section of roadway, currently dug up, will soon be filled with concrete.

Knowles said contractors will then finish installing a stormwater drain between Third and Fourth streets.

“I think there’s still a little bit more work that needs to be done in front of the post office, but we’re still waiting for public service to get in there and move their telephone poles so that we can finish that,” he said.

Since construction began in March, crews have already finished putting in new sidewalks and stormwater piping between Second and West Third streets.

With just some weeks away from the project finally coming to a close, Knowles spoke about the challenges they encountered during the project, including sourcing materials.

“Obviously in this day and age it’s just so inconsistent,” Knowles said. “You never know what you’re going to get or when you’re going to get it. You have to work around those situations.”

The easiest part of the job was working with the city, Knowles said.

“Truthfully — I am not blowing smoke — I’ve worked with so many municipalities on the Western Slope, and working with the city of Rifle has been phenomenal,” he said.

Knowles said once the project is complete, the new infrastructure for the downtown area should last up to 100 years.

“It should be a marked improvement,” he said. “I’m sure that our local entrepreneurs will be very happy to get rid of us. We knew it was going to be painful, and I don’t think they all anticipated just how painful it was going to be. But we’re trying very hard to work with them and their needs and their schedules so that we can be done with it and leave them to their businesses.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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